How to beat the market? 21 answers from a professional bookmaker
What kind of betting systems work? What strategy would a bookie bet on? Find out in this article!
If you have any doubts about using historical football data linked to bookmaker odds to create betting strategies, then you can be encouraged by knowing that even sportsbook managers are using the Betamin Builder to find value picks to beat the betting market. We were lucky enough to find out that one of our members used to work at a major sportsbook, and that user has very kindly agreed to let us share an interview with him which we think will interest everyone. It is rare we get a chance to actually meet someone who not only works on the other side of the betting screen, but also one high enough in that organization to know first-hand how the major bookmakers set their odds.
Here is the interview followed by some of our suggestions on how to use this information at the end.
Q1 What is your experience in the betting industry?
I have over 20 years experience in the sportsbook industry and roughly 15 years of that was under the umbrella of one of the biggest (if not the biggest) North American books, but they have customers worldwide, and high limit sharps too. And I’ve been betting personally for much longer.
Q2 How do sportsbooks/bookmakers set their odds?
Each sportsbook may work in different ways, but I will share my experiences. For over half of my bookmaking years, I was with the biggest of the US facing books, so the method used for opening prices might be different to European bookmakers. In my experience, they usually have 3 or more 3rd party services who provide their opening prices for each sport. They will take those 3 lines and use their discretion as to how to use that information in order tp come to their opening odds. Then they will have one expert bettor or “sharp” in each sport and offer the opening price they have decided on to that person only, before the line ever hits the odds screen or their website. After that opening price has been set based on the 3 providers and then massaged by the respective sharp, then the line goes out for public consumption. It starts with lower overnight limits, and once the line is deemed mature, it comes to full betting limits. If a sharp does not bet the opening number off screen, they feel the price must be solid. So this method is very different from having a single model, however every one of the “sharps” being offered the opening price is operating from a model of their own.
That is really interesting stuff, so our understanding of the football odds making process is this:
Step 1 “3+ pricing services”: The bookmaker actually pays for 3 or more separate odds calculating services that send them their estimated opening odds which may be based on a combination of their computer model and a football markets manager.
Step 2 “the bookmaker football markets manager”: The bookmaker’s football markets manager decides his bookmaker’s opening odds based on the different prices that the odds calculating services provided. He may also add in his own personal bias about individual leagues or teams based on his experience and expertise.
Step 3 “a sharp”: The bookmaker offers his opening price to one betting expert (a “sharp”) who can bet for real on those odds.
Step 4 “public market low limits”: The bookmaker adjusts his odds based on how the “sharp” bet on them, and then releases the new opening odds to the public, but with low stake limits.
Step 5 “public market high limits”: The bookmaker adjusts his odds based on how the public bets on them, and then increases the stake limits to their normal levels. The bookmaker monitors the public bets and adjusts the odds if too much money comes in on one selection.
Yes, that’s pretty much it.
Q3 We are very interested in finding out if the odds we see on Pinnacle are based on some kind of consistent model that we can find inefficiencies in. If there is no consistent model, then there can be no consistent inefficiencies. Do the odds providing services use computer generated odds based on market models that show the result probability based on form and other objective statistics?
As I said before, each bookmaker works differently, but I would imagine that the odds providing services themselves use a computer based model to generate starting lines based on form, goals and other data, and then human managers adjust those odds before they pass them on to their client, which is the sportsbook/bookmaker. In the sense that they are using the same odds providing services and the bookmaker sport manager is the same person or team, then we can expect to see a level of consistency to the odds that we would not see on betting exchange where the odds being offered come from a variety of sources.
Q4 Do the bookmaker market managers and odds providing services use different models for each league? Or do they use one model/calculation formula for each market (Match Odds, Over 2.5 goals, Double Chance, Draw No Bet, etc.) and apply it to all leagues, and then have their market managers manually change odds according to their experience and expert opinion?
The models are applied to all leagues. Generally speaking these all come from third party services who use their own models, however the biggest bookmakers do have at least one analytics/model employee in house. I am aware of situations where the “man with the model” ended up being hired – the big firms have deep enough pockets to make it worthwhile (and the bettor then has zero risk) The models are applicable to all leagues, however each leagues’ data is unique and separate. Each league’s data has its own characteristics, and therefore creates different pricing due to their own tendencies e.g. lower scoring, more draws etc. The main markets are made first and the derivative markets generated from those. e.g. a team total will be directly related to the price on the match and the match total. Books will open up markets and matches with lower betting limits until the match market becomes relatively more efficient.
Q5 Do the providers use computer models and a market manager?
It is very likely that they use a combination of computer models and market managers or experts.
Q6 Are the odds providing services similar to these companies: BetRadar, SportRadar, LSports?
The services providing odds to the market making sportsbooks are not similar to those 3 odds services mentioned. Those providing the odds to the leading sportsbooks are the originators of the lines and the top sportsbooks will tweak those. The services you mentioned are more likely to merely take those numbers and redistribute them. Think of it this way – a shoe manufacturer is the original odds service provider, the market leading sportsbook adds their signature brand to it (tweaks the line to make it theirs), and the providers mentioned are merely mass distributing those products with no influence of their own. They may take a consensus price of several leading sportsbooks, but they neither create nor tweak or influence the product that goes to their customers. Those who provide the original pricing service direct to the sportsbooks are a discreet, well paid lot that often have exclusive deals with sportsbooks. The providers you mentioned, like l-sports, are literally just line feeds sending prices to a sportsbook, sending final scores, etc
Q7 Does the “Sharp” use computer generated odds based on market models? Or does he just use his gut feeling?
That really depends on the sharp. Some do, some don’t.
Q8 If the “Sharp” uses computer models, does he use different models for each league?
Again, it depends on the sharp. But if they do, it is more likely that one model is applied to all leagues.
Q9 Do you think inefficiencies exist in the market?
Inefficiencies definitely exist, but they often occur in smaller leagues or derivative markets where a bookmaker can justify using a higher odds spread to mitigate damage. I have had success for the past 3 years with a model which uses a commonly followed sports statistic (such as total points/goals/runs scored, I can’t share my winning system I’m afraid.) to come up with the probability of a point/goal/run being scored (regardless of team) in the 1st part of a given sport’s game. This is an example of a derivative market that has opportunities. So I take a value indicator from a major market and apply it to smaller related markets. An important key point to consider, too, is that “public” money can make up the bulk of betting in these smaller derivative markets. This is because many sharps won’t want to waste time betting in markets with lower limits. So a bookmaker can open the “right” price, and have that price moved through the day by the bookmaker trying to manage risk due to public money all betting a common side, which then creates opportunities to bet the opposite side where value exists. So yes, inefficiencies do exist. That is not because the bookmakers get it wrong. The bookmaker is trying to make a profit with the “right” odds, not to produce “perfect” odds. They adjust their odds to make profit and that is where the inefficiencies in the market appear.
Q10 You say that inefficiencies exist in smaller leagues or derivative markets. So the expanded 111 league database in the Betamin Builder is a good thing!?
Yes, the 111 league database is better because it has more minor leagues where sharps are less likely to have corrected the odds.
Q11 Does that mean we should not be betting on major leagues like the English Premier League, Italian Serie A or Spanish La Liga Match Odds? When a Betaminic strategy includes profitable leagues from those major markets, is it okay to bet on them?
There is still value to be found in all leagues, even the big 5. As I said, the bookmakers put out the odds that are “right” for them and their profit plan.
Q12 Do the “Draw No Bet” and “Double Chance” football markets count as “derivative markets”?
Yes, these are derivative markets formulated off the price of the match.
Q13 When we are looking for inefficiencies, who do you think is most likely to get it wrong? The computer models? The market managers? The sharps? The public market?
“Handicapping” is generally one of the more difficult aspects of wagering these days as there is so much information available now that getting a leg up is incredibly difficult. The chance that a bettor has a better read on a match than the books and models is not probable, but the beauty of the industry is that it is incredibly wide open. Bookies are *forced* to offer prices on all these matches, and all the markets within this plethora of matches (all year long). Yet the bettors have the option to bet, or not to bet, and how much to bet. Bookmakers/market managers do not have this luxury. There is also an erroneous assumption that all markets and matches have been polished by sharp money and/or modelers. This is not the case, as not every match will have sharp money involved, and public “square’ money will move matches as books balance risk according to their management profile. Market managers have the luxury of being wrong and working to balance their action. Bettors do not have that to fall back on. Sharps are those who have proven to win over the long term and the long term extends to years. Computer models are very strong but they also have to be wary of when data changes and also when books adapt, as they always do. The most likely to get it wrong is the public market as they are generally all consuming the same information.
Q14 How can we take advantage of this?
Betting on derivative markets and selections that go against the trend is a way to take advantage of that. As I said, there is more chance to take advantage in minor leagues and related markets.
Q15 With Betamin Builder strategies, we are not trying to beat the opening odds, the closing odds or the public market. We are just using the opening odds as a trigger to bet on value picks based on strategies that made profit historically over the last 10 years. In some cases we are following betting strategies that have historically led to profit by betting on favorites (e.g. backing home teams with high average goal stats like with the “Pro-home” strategy). In other cases, we are following strategies that bet against the trend by betting on underdogs or unfancied selections (e.g. backing the draw for teams that have not drawn for 6 games like the “No draw medium streak – both teams” strategy.) Do you think there is enough consistency in the way Pinnacle bookmaker odds are set to follow this method of betting based on historical winning trends?
Yes. The betting industry, and the bettors themselves, are constantly evolving but what doesn’t change is the philosophy of balancing action and taking in their “commission” as they take a small edge and apply that over a massive amount of volume. That is why the larger, better bookmakers do and should always welcome sharp winning players – the value (sharp side) of information and volume (bigger wagers) of bets is a highly attractive position for them. That is what Pinnacle does I believe.
The data question is a good one, in that one must dig through and determine whether or not 10 years of data is better than 5 years of data. As an example, one could have the window of data with Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar all playing in la Liga. The idea that those three would have a profound impact on stats is a reasonable one to consider, and another idea is to look at league wide data without those 3 players. League profiles can change, so one must be wary of these changes and adapt.
If the price is right, there is always a point where a favorable wager can be made on a favorite or on an underdog. The question is always one of “positive expected value” or “+EV”. Ask a sharp which team to bet on between team A and B. A true sharp will ask, “What are the odds?” Move the line far enough and there will be support for both sides.
Bookmakers such as Pinnacle desire having strong opening prices that attract a high volume of betting with little movement, however putting out a “perfect price” is not in their best interest as there would be no perceived value on either side to attract sufficient betting volume. I have seen American football lines where deep pocket sharps were betting a match total over 65.5 and then under 66.5, back and forth, like a Ping-Pong ball, taking 5-figure bets Over 65.5 and Under 66.5. This continued until the opposing sharps had their fill of action. The question might be, why not leave the price/total at 66? the reason is that at 66, neither sharp bettor touched the match. The book would have written a small volume of public action. But by moving back and forth, they ended up writing 6-figure volume on each the over and under. Writing the action is what books want, which illustrates why they often do not want to be “right” with a number, but merely “close enough”. This is why there is still value to be found in all leagues, even the big 5.
So if you can research a strategy that finds value in the market trends, for example with Betaminic’s database, then you could beat the market.
Q16 Pinnacle odds are based on the same market manager going through the same processes based on the same odds providers each time to create his opening odds. There is a level of consistency there. Is it correct to say that Betfair and other exchange odds do not have that consistency. They are just a reflection of whoever offered odds for that market at that time. There are no official “opening odds” for the Betfair exchange. Different users provide different odds for different football matches. In this way, would you agree that it is easier to create a betting strategy based on Pinnacle opening odds as the trigger instead of using Betfair or other exchange odds as the trigger?
The Pinnacle odds are much more consistent in that respect, yes.
Q17 Why did you start using Betaminic?
My aim is to become self-sufficient soon enough from sports betting and Betaminic is one of the tools I use for that. Casino games are “almost” impossible to beat as you are always betting against the house. Sportsbetting is different, in that we are absolutely not betting against the house. The house extracts a small “commission” to facilitate wagers – but once the opening price is out there, it is a completely open market with almost no limit of entry (just open an account and send money) of bettor vs bettor. So there is opportunity there.
Q18 Which Betaminic strategies do you follow? Do you follow public strategies or create your own private strategies?
Personally, I follow the “contra” strategies and Colossus 06 Scoring Away Overs. The contra strategies (backing the draw and over 2.5 goals) which go against a trend appeal to me. I think there will often be value to be found in the inflated prices due to the recent form of an event “not” happening. We can find value in that. Assuming a match total of 2.5 goals, there are only two possibilities. They combine for 3 or more goals, or 2 or fewer. So there are only 2 possibilities and we get added value going against a recent short term trend. The draw contra also has an appeal simply because there is often value built into the draw option just because it is based on the mindset of bettors who generally look at a match with the view of “who will win and why?” not the though process of “I hope neither side wins”.
Q19 Do you think it is ok to filter by league? Or should strategies work across all leagues unfiltered?
Definitely filter leagues as they often have different characteristics and qualities. The Argentina B nacional league may have many more draw outcomes than the higher scoring Bolivian league while Japan may find a higher number of away teams winning, whereas the MLS in North America could very well be more home team dominant. Filtering leagues is necessary I think. A tool like the Betamin Builder and the stats pages help us find them easier.
Q20 In your opinion, how far back is it meaningful to backtest strategies? 3 years, 6 years, 10 years? Or do you feel some winning strategies can be found based on recent 3 year trends while others can be found with long term 10 year trends?
I think that both apply due to personnel moves, coaching changes, etc. and of course a league and strategy that grind out a solid small ROI year after year can also be immensely valuable. Yet certain changes, expansion, teams promoted / demoted can all shed light on shorter term trends being profitable as well. So it is worth researching both long term trends with 6-10 years of data (for general league characteristic) and short term trends with 1-3 years of data (for team, squad and manager changes).
Q21 Do you have any other advice for our users and their betting?
Always shop around for the best odds. For example, have accounts with multiple bookmakers such as Pinnacle, Betfair, Betonline, Betcris, Bet365 and so on. (Although Bet365 have terrible limits for anyone who wins, like I do.) The bookmakers change their odds to hit their profit targets, so check around for the best odds at the time you place your bets.
Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and experience with other users. It will really help us all!
You’re very welcome.
Review: Key Points from the Interview
Hearing the knowledge and experience of this Betaminic member was very interesting and really gives us more confidence in the big data betting method. Some of his answers reminded me of the book “Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks” by Joseph Buchdahl. It was fascinating to hear again of these “sharps” who get offered the bookmaker’s opening lines and have first bite of the cake before it goes out to the “squares” in the public market.
The key points we got from this interview were:
- Inefficiencies do exist in the bookmaker method.
- The bookmakers do not have a specific “model” for each league, they have a “method” for the major markets in a sport (i.e. Match Odds and Over/Under 2.5 goals) which is their betting odds market manager who sets the opening odds based on the suggested odds from odds generating services PLUS his own opinion. And then he offers that price to just one expert bettor (or “sharp”) who must be betting based on their own opinion or models. And then the market manager makes another adjustment before releasing the public opening odds. There is no single computer model for each league/team. It is just that market manager’s method based on the price providers’ odds and expert bettor bets. Some strategies can work over all leagues and others can work filtered down to just a few leagues due to league specific characteristics.
- Minor leagues and derivative markets have more chance for inefficiencies than major leagues and main markets. This is because the market manager may not have as much knowledge/experience with that league. And sharps don’t bet heavily on them to correct the odds. So public money tends to come down on the obvious side and again pushes up the less popular choice. This suggests “against the trend” or the “contra” strategies have good logic behind them and stand a good chance of long term profit. Double Chance and DNB class as derivative markets. Betaminic also now covers many of the minor leagues with its expanded 111 league database.
- Major leagues can still be profitable when the public market overbets an obvious selection so much that the draw/underdog bets are pushed up into value territory. (This must be why the home underdog strategies have been doing well in their various forms e.g. deneme, homes yeni share, awful home team, etc.) But even favourites can provide value if the bookmakers are trying to get some of that action and have raised their odds accordingly. This means shopping around for the best odds is important.
- This user follows Against the Trend / Contra over 2.5 goals and draw strategies, and also the Colossus 06 Away Scoring Overs.
Against the Trend Strategies
So what are the top “Against the Trend” strategies to choose from?
This Over 2.5 goals strategy finds value draw picks across all 111 leagues that go against the trend. So here we would be betting against the “squares” who look at the short term form too much. The “all results” above show a +7% yield with a 54% win rate. The “since shared” results show a +11.95% yield from a 53% win rate. That is a very strong showing after 272 bets since this strategy was first publicly shared. It has a low drawdown of -26.97 points over the last 10 years and just -10.76 over the last 7 months. If you are interested in following an against the trend over 2,5 goals strategy, then this could be a good one to start with.
This strategy by user Maxi goes against the trend in the draw market. It also works across all 111 leagues. It has similarities with other top rated against the trend draw strategies, but this one might be considered the best of them since it does work across all leagues and its 10-year average yield of +8.72% has increases to +18% over the last 7 months showing that this strategy has worked long term and is working especially well this year.
The Colossus 06 is also a type of against the trend strategy since it focusses on goals not being scored in previous games as part of its filters to find value over 2.5 goal picks. In this way it is different from “ALL LEAGUES Over 2.5 against trend / TODAS las LIGAS Más 2.5 contra tendencia (Updated 2021-10-20)” which focusses on the over/under 2.5 goal stats rather than goals scored. The Colossus 06 and its related strategies with similar filters have been among the top performing long term strategies on the publicly shared rankings since 2018.
This strategy bets on home games and was inspired by a strategy by user Misbe91. It is another against the trend strategy, but this time looking for home underdogs that squares will be betting against based on recent form. The average odds are higher, the win rate is lower, but the yields are +9.31% after 340 bets since it was shared. That is a decent sized data set to judge that this strategy has found a long term trend which is still working well.
There are many other against the trend strategies and you can see them by looking at the filters for each strategy. You can sign up for Betaminic and get access to the public strategies in the Betamin Builder, so if you are not already a member, then you click here to get started. You can also create your own private strategies by researching new against the trend patterns with the filters in the Betamin Builder. Log in to try it now.
We were very excited to hear the inside story of sportsbook price setting from one of our users in today’s interview, and we are sure that you will also be inspired by the knowledge that even bookies use the Betamin Builder to find value picks and beat other bookies.