Betting 360 Ep 069 – The lifestyle of a professional punter (part two) with Ben Krahe

Ben Krahe followed a career in bookmaking to venture out on his own as a professional punter more than three years ago.

He’s been very successful ever since and on the podcast this week answers the rest of your listener questions we didn’t get to in Episode 68. The focus is on form analysis and bet placement.

Punting Insights:

  • Why you should back more than one horse per race
  • How to frame your own markets
  • A market segment where the bookies often make mistakes
  • His approach to backing odds-on runners
  • The main reason why he won’t bet the exotics
  • A great way to read the market moves
  • How to handle both falling and rising banks

Today’s Guest:
Ben Krahe

David Duffield: The next question was, “I can’t bring myself to back more than one horse in a race. If one doesn’t stand out for value or it’s winning hope, I stay away. Is this the correct approach?”

Ben Krahe: I think this is definitely not the correct approach for a few different reasons, Dave.

One I like to look at, let’s say there’s 3 horses which we consider of value, which one of those you’re going to select? For instance, I don’t actually make selections in races. I price every horse. Therefore, I don’t have any favourite to which one I want to back I just back ones which are a value. For mine, if something is value, why does it matter whether it’s 1, 2, or 3? Basically if you take 2 horses or 3 horses, you’re combining, it’s like you’re backing those 3 versus the field. It’s in effect that it’s still a 2-horse race. You just got 2, 3, or 4 horses at your backing, versus 6 or 7 horses. In effect that’s a 2-horse race still, but you’re just coupling a few together.

The second way I like to look at it, let’s take a soccer match for instance. How many times do people back the plus half, I think that is called. Let’s say Australia is playing New Zealand, you’ve got a draw in there as well, so there’s 3 options. Each time you’ll see the people back the plus a half, which actually gives you 2 options of the 3. Or conversely, if you want to lay aside, you’re backing the other 2 options. It’s the same in horse racing. Let’s say you don’t like the favourite, and you’re going to lay it on Betfair, let’s say this 10 horse in the race, in effect you’re actually backing 9 horses. There’s many different ways to do it.

For mine, you can’t just single out one horse, because which one are we actually putting on top? Just the favourite runner or the second one. What happens when one that is 10/1 rated wins at 20/1, and you’ve only backed the favourite because it’s the shortest one that we got as value? You’re going to be really doing your head in and that’s when you’re discipline is going to start to struggle.

For mine, I’m happy to back any horse that’s value, because if someone says to you, “This is value. I want to take it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 1, 2, 3, 4 horses in the race.

David Duffield: I saw a 60 Minutes interview with Billy Walters, the massive US sports guy and he said something like, much like what you were saying there, he’s framed his market, but it’s basically, if he’s valued something at $10 he’s a buyer at 8 and he’s a seller at 12.

Ben Krahe: I mean you can even liken this to just general life, you know. If you went into the shop and saw a pair of jeans that are normally, $100 and they’re $30, well you’re going to buy them. If you saw a tee-shirt that’s the same sort of value, you’re going to buy it as well. Why just buy one thing? This way you’re buying 2 or 3 things that are value and in the long run, as long as the ratings are right, you will end up winning.
Yes, your margins may be smaller, but what would you rather win, 8 or 9 or 10% consistently or win 30% one day, lose 30% the next day, win 30% the next day, etc., you know what I mean?

David Duffield: Yeah. The next part of that question is how do you form an accurate market and get tips on how to quickly frame your own market, so it’s approached from 2 aspects. One is, if people want to do it quickly which isn’t easy, how would you frame a market, and also, how do you go about framing yours?

Ben Krahe: Obviously you’ve got to know a bit about percentages so that’s another podcast I suppose, how to work out percentages, but it’s quite easy to do, just whip up a spreadsheet very quickly and if anyone doesn’t have one, please contact you guys and we’ll send you through a very basic spreadsheet on how to form a market.

It’s all about judging … If you’re doing a punter’s market, it’s all about judging how many times you think a horse will win a race, basically. If you have a look at a race and you think this horse is going to win it 50% of the time, then $2 or even money is the price of that horse. If we’re doing 100% market.

If you think it’s going to win 10% of the time, then obviously $9 or $10 or whatever it is, is going to be the price of the horse.

You’ve got to estimate how many times you think this horse will win that race and then convert that to a price.

This is where we see, again, our favourite topic Dave, the longshot/favourite bias and we’ll see horses that are 30/1 and 40/1 at the TAB, which in effect means they think will win, you know, 3 times in 100, 3 out of 100 times.

Whereas if you actually think about it, these horses might only win 1 out of 500 or 600 times, there’s just no hope that these horses are going to win, and if they have 3 or 4 of these at 30 to 1 that should be 100 or 200 to 1, then there’s 10 or 12% of the market that they’re going to be wrong on, and that’s just on the longshots. This is where if we rate these longshots and favourites correctly, this is where we’ll pick apart the markets.

Secondly, how do I frame a market? I usually read all the form, I do the videos, all the stuff, the preparation that you need, and then I pick out what I think are the main hopes.

Now a wise man once told me, I used to do the dogs, that’s where I started pricing, and in an 8 dog race he always said the top 4 had to be over 100% and the rest of it is what you should be making. In a very broad term, the chances that you think are a winning chance should be over the 100% and then you make up the rest of your market with what are probably not the winning chances.

I like to frame my markets to 130%, and then convert them back, so for mine if there’s only 2 teams in the race, you’ll find that those both percentages probably add up to 100% or 105% or whatever it is.

If there’s 4 chances, then those 4 prices will add up to somewhere over the 100% and the rest of the field I’ll make up 30% with.

I usually like to go through the field and just outline the chan ces first. I’ll probably outline what I think are the winning chances, probably the place chances and then the ones that are absolutely no hope.

Then I judge, I go from, okay this favourite here, how many times will it win if this race is run 100 times? Will it win 50 times? Yes, it will probably win 50 times; therefore, it’s an even money chance, so bang, whack down $2 for that horse, and then go from the next one.

When you do all that, you should be hopefully with good practice, somewhere around whatever you’re aiming for. I aim for 130%. You know if you’re 120% then you can do some tweaking, whether it’s with your longshots, if you don’t think they’re long enough or if you think the favourite needs to firm a little bit more, that’s the way I sort of approach it.

David Duffield: I was just going to ask about one of the challenges you face and that’s the shorties at the trots, so you’re trying to work out whether they should be $1.10, $1.30, $1.60, which is not the easiest thing to do. A lot of the more data driven guys struggle with it, that short end of the market to … If they’re working off a kind of algorithm or database it can be hard to get them short enough.You sometimes basically divide a fair percentage amongst the no hopers and then work out what’s left for the favourite.

Ben Krahe: Yeah, yeah 100% and there are a lot of guys out there that do the data stuff and I’m not one of them. I’ve got a mate who is a pro punter as well and I’ll have something $1.30 or $1.20 and he’s like I can’t get it below $1.70, and I’ll say but it’s going to win more than 40% of the races or whatever percent there is, and he’ll just say yeah but I can’t get it that low. That’s, I suppose, the difference between what I do and what data guys do.

Now I had a short discussion with you about this before and the way I suppose I get to the $1.10, $1.20 or $1.30, because let’s face it, there’s not much difference between $1.10, $1.20 and $1.30 shot, they’re pretty much expected to win.

The way I sort of get there is I’ll work to 130% and I’ll do all my figures and if the favourite is come out at $1.40 and I’m only at 120%, I need to find 10% more for my market, so inevitably I will probably firm my favourite in a bit more, and/or drift my longshots a bit more. That’s the way I’ll probably then tweak with the favourite and get to its price so it may be the $1.40 then becomes $1.30 or $1.25 or something like that.

David Duffield: How can I make money out of exotics, because I know you do some place betting but what about, you know quinellas and trifectas.

Ben Krahe: Exotics is something … I know that the greyhound guy that we deal with, Greg is very good with exotics and he does that sort of a thing. For me, I can’t make money consistently out of it because for me my one motto is, “Price is king,” so unless you’re getting value I don’t bet and how do you know what’s value in a quinella or a trifecta when the dividends can vary so much?

You might get a trifecta with a 50/1 winner and 20/1 second and 10/1 third, and that only pays $600 whereas it probably should pay $3,000 or whatever it should pay, who knows.

For mine, you know, I don’t back exotics myself because there’s no fixed price evidence so how do you know you’re getting value?

I can’t really answer the question because I don’t back them, so for mine, exotic is hard to be consistently making money at because you don’t know whether you’re taking value or not.

David Duffield: You’ve answered this, I think in the early response, but do you have a minimum price, say $1.50 where you won’t bet under or do you just look at value?

Ben Krahe: I’ve just changed this actually a little bit, Dave. I went through a stage where I didn’t touch odds-on for no apparent reason other than I was uncomfortable having to bet more than another race to get my money back, if that makes sense, if it lost.

I lowered it down to $1.80 as now my price, but in saying that I will actually go shorter but only if it’s real, real value. We know that at the trots there’s more short stuff than there is in any other code, you know there was one that went around there today at $1.04 that the $1.04 was actually probably overs It’s not that I’d back it at $1.04, but if that sort of went up maybe $1.40 or something and it was rated $1.08, that’s quite a good over still and I’d probably have a go at it, so the long and fast of it is actually not a minimum price for me, but I try and make $1.80 unless I’m getting exceptional value.

David Duffield: What about getting the best prices? How do you know when to bet early or what’s the best time or how do you decide the best moment to go bet on?

Ben Krahe: Fantastic question and this is what I want to do a live podcast with some of your guys on. You know there’s many programs out there these days and I see that Champion Picks has one now, a price comparison program.

David Duffield: Yeah.

Ben Krahe: Congratulations, it looks good. I currently use one called Dynamic Odds which I think everyone uses as well. It’s cheap to use, I’m not plugging them, but it is a positive …

David Duffield: Well no problem as we’ve been giving them a plug for years.

Ben Krahe: It’s the best $30 you’ll ever spend, I’m telling you now.
Unless anyone’s not familiar with it, it’s like standing in the middle of a bookmaker’s ring these days, you can put all the bookmaker’s prices up there and like I said, the next podcast I’ll give you a show on my screen, exactly how I set mine up, but you can look at all the tote prices, Betfair, Champion Picks has got their rated price in there so it’s nice and easy to see. All the fixed prices.

The way I’ve got mine set up is that it flashes red when something is firming, it flashes green when something is drifting, so you get to know those colors. I’ve got Betfair in two different distinct colours, they get underlined, the back or lay side when there’s a certain amount on those sides. I don’t know whether you do all that but it’s something that I do and basically you just watch all this and the more you watch and get the feel for a market, the time you’ll know to bet. There is no answer to this Dave, it’s practice.

You sit there and how do you know when you’re standing in the middle of the ring when to bet? You probably watch Joe Blow go up to Tom Waterhouse in the old days and he firms one, then the next bookmaker firms one, then the next bookmaker firms one. It’s the same here. When they’re all firming, you probably know that all of them are going to firm, so if you can still get a good price, it’s probably worth taking so that’s obviously … That’s the obvious way of knowing when something’s going to firm.

The back and lay side of Betfair is extremely important, probably moreso in the races because there’s a lot more liquidity there. The trots doesn’t seem to get any liquidity until 2 minutes to go, but if someone’s on the lay side trying to back something that’s $3 for a couple thousand dollars and the TAB or some corporate are offering $2.90 about it, you pretty much know that’s going to go because someone’s trying to back it at $3, so the $2.90 is probably as good as it’s going to go.

In effect, no one’s going to offer odds over what the lay prices on Betfair, so the amount of money stacked up on Betfair on the lay side is a good indication it’s going to firm and conversely, if there’s someone happy to lay it, so in other words on the back side of Betfair, for a couple thousand dollars at $3 you know it’s probably going to drift out to $3.50 or even more because people are happy to let you on on Betfair, therefore I can’t see people running in to back it at the corporates.

Betfair’s a huge guide. The other guide is the actual tote price. Something opens up $1.80 on the tote and there’s a couple of thousand in the pool, yes it could be a result of a big all-up but it’s still an indication that there’s money for this horse, and if they want to go and put up $5 or $6 about it, it would be an odd occasion that it wouldn’t firm.

Those are the sort of certain things you can watch, but it’s just like standing in the middle of an old school bookmaker’s ring where there actually were bookmakers and how did you ever judge it then? It’s the same thing and it just takes feel and it’s something that there’s no right or wrong answer for and I get it wrong a lot of times too. If you feel you’re getting value, take it and get it. There’s only one way to learn, Dave, and that’s to practice.

David Duffield: One of the biggest problems in harness is there’s so few price assessors. There’s so many copycat bookies, so who would you suggest, I suppose if one corporate, is it the TAB fixed odds, if they’re turning one in then that’s a pretty good lead that all the others are going to follow?

Ben Krahe: At the moment, Bet365 go up early, they’re the only ones. I’m not giving them any credit for being price assessors but they probably take 5 minutes to do some form and put a price up, but they’ll just whack a price up and let the so-called smarties which one to firm. They’ll let them on for a couple a hundred dollars or whatever they’ll run for and then they’ll firm it.

Have a look at what has firmed in the day. If there’s any early bookmakers gone up, in the gallops there’s probably more, but for trots, just go and have a look at Bet365 and have a look at which ones firmed. It’s a surefire sign that someone smart’s already backed it.

I’m hoping … I hope no one is listening from the TAB here because they don’t do it. It’s amazing how many times you’ll see something that’s firm from $.50 to $2.50 at Bet365 and the TAB go and whack up $3.50. Well for mine they know it’s going to firm.

I’m not giving away any world secrets here but they just don’t seem to sort of work this out. I think early movements are most important at whoever puts up an early price.

Obviously if the TAB goes straight off on something they’re more than likely later but we all know that they can play games and they can keep firming something extremely, extremely short in the hope that people then go, “Oh, this thing’s firm 10 points, let’s jump on and sell it at the rock bottom price.”

Sometimes don’t fall for the TAB’s tricks and don’t jump in if it’s firmed 6 times because they may not have actually laid it 6 times. I know that sounds stupid because old school bookmakers would be shaking their head in shame, but that’s just the way it is these days. People are traders, they’re not bookmakers, they’re trying to sell you things at the lowest possible price so there’s all sorts of tricks they can do. I don’t know if I’m off track now, Dave.

David Duffield: No, no, it’s good. I’m sure it’s relevant for what people wanted to hear. The next question was do you ever stop because you’ve won enough for the day?

Ben Krahe: It’s the same answer, do you stop because you’ve lost for the day. It’s the same answer as don’t bet double on the last race. It’s the same answer as so many things. No you don’t stop because what if you stop after race 6, what if you get race 7 and 8 and they’re part of your 8% that you win because you’re going to lose 8 races in a row tomorrow?

For mine again there’s no last race unless you think there’s a last race in your punting career, but if you price race 7 and 8, why are you not backing them just because you’re winning? You might win those two and you migh t win a few hundred dollars on those two and that’s the few hundred dollars that you’ll lose tomorrow that would’ve made up a small profit for the 2 days.

David Duffield: How do you access your winnings to use as a steady income, is it with withdrawal from accounts or laying through exchanges and copping the commission?

Ben Krahe: No, I don’t do that at all, mate. I just … I like to keep a sort of a balance in all the bookmakers accounts, I don’t want to give them too much money, obviously, but just enough to cover a couple of bets because there’s nothing worse than seeing $4 flash up at Tattsbet and oh, I’ve got to deposit and hang on my credit card’s not working so I’ve got to do it by Poli which takes another 2 minutes, the next thing you know it’s $3 and you’ve missed your price.

I like to keep a little bit amount of the money in the bookmakers that I can have a bet with and I’ll just empty it out once a week pretty much as, you know, old school, on a Monday morning I’ll take it out and I’ll pay myself my money for the week that I need to live on and pay my wages and whatever else.

The one thing I do do and I mean this is a bit … I don’t want to go financial too much but I make sure I pay all my bills before I consider doing any sort of punting because you don’t want to be doing that.

David Duffield: As a followup to that, this is another question. After a successful run of winners, how do you keep the money and then continue with the gradual build-up of winnings? My bank has grown more than 4 times over the last 6 months, I’m still betting at the same level per unit as I did at the start. At what point should you look to up your betting stakes?

Ben Krahe: It’s all about where you’re comfortable. It’s 4 times, if this person started with 5 grand in the bank and then got 20, are you happy with that? Look, how much money do you want to make out this?
This is why I’ve never been a large punter because I’m not trying to make a million dollars out of it, I just want to make enough to live. If I can somehow make six figures or near to that or to the side of that, then I’m happy, and I’ve had runs where I’ve had a very good bank and decided, let’s up it, but you shouldn’t do it.

There’s a reason you got to this person in particular and I hope they’re one of my members, there’s a reason they got to 4 times their amount of money and it’s because they were disciplined, and when you win, you should actually reward yourself, I’m probably getting off track here but go and spend the money on something. Go and buy yourself a new pair of jeans or go out for dinner or whatever, because you want to be able to enjoy what you’re winning and the reason you’re doing it.

There’s got to be a reason you’re doing it. It’s well and good to keep the money in the bank and to have a bank for the bad times, but at some stage go and spend some of your money and when you do it, think back and think how happy you are that you were disciplined and the way you got there as opposed to fluking a couple of winners on a Saturday afternoon in the old times, you might’ve done it, but this way you’ve really ground it out and you’ve done it the right way. That’s the way I like to think of it, as well.

I’ve just been on a holiday to Europe for 2 weeks over Christmas and while I was there, I’m thankful for the reason I was able to do it.

David Duffield: Well that’s the end of the listener questions. We’ve covered getting started, the workload and lifestyle, form analysis and bet placement. Was there anything else that you wanted to touch on before you wrap it up?

Ben Krahe: No, I think we’re cool, but yeah, all good.

David Duffield: Thanks a lot, appreciate your time Ben, all the best for the year.

Ben Krahe: Thanks, Dave.

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