Ben Krahe has been a very successful bookmaker and punter for a number of years now, so the big question is how can a solo operator consistently beat the market? And over the course of many years how much do you have to adapt your approach? Or should you just stick with exactly what has worked in the past? He’s on the podcast this week to answer those questions and more.

Punting Insights:

  • How bookies waste a good percentage of the market
  • Some good pointers on exactly when to bet
  • How to handle a losing run
  • Why he has changed the way he stakes his bets

Today’s Guest: Ben Krahe

Dave: Hi Ben and thanks for joining us again. I want to run through a few different aspects of how you’ve gone since you’ve last been on the show. I suppose it’s a fairly broad question, but how do you try to consistently try to beat the market? Because a lot of guys can have short term success, but how do you try to achieve that that over a longer time period?

Ben: I think that’s exactly what you said, there’s probably the main key that it’s not a shot term thing, it’s a long term thing. We’re happy to make 5% or 6% in the long run. That’s where we gain our edge, it’s not a day to day proposition. If we lose 10 units today, I’m sure we’re going to get a backup some stage plus a little bit more. The main thing for people to remember and a lot of our members have and have ridden the highs and lows, is that there will be a lot of those. We’re here for the yearly plan or an even longer plan plan. We’re here to win overall not just to win every day of the week. That’s never going to happen. That’s the main thing I think.

Dave: What about in terms of the form analysis that you do? There’s a lot of aspects that go into form study and the way you do it is not heavily data-driven, a lot of it is based on the experience that you have. How does that incorporate your edge in that you’re obviously trying to beat the market?

Ben: I think with NSW we’ve said before; we just concentrate on a few tracks. I think I know those horses inside out. I can tell you where they ran last. I can tell you what price they were, whether it was backed. That’s all stuck in my head. Victoria we obviously do a lot more tracks. We’ve been doing that for this part of nine or 10 months now. I think their markets are run. There’s lot more liquidity in the Victoria markets. I think we’re getting our edge by getting our price. A lot more people are getting on there, that’s an edge there. Another edge is something we’ve discussed that many times Dave and it’s the favourite/longshot bias. Many times people see I’ll mark something 1000/1 if I think it’s 1000/1.

Or I’m happy to mark it $1.20 even if the market says its $5 or $6. I do my prices and I don’t look at anything until after I’ve done my prices. That’s the way you’ve got to do it. You can’t let anyone else affect it. You’ve got to be aggressive in your pricing. Basically we’re going to eliminate a lot of long prices that are incorrectly priced. When we do that we can probably get 10% or 12% edge, just on the TAB by what they do there. Again as we’ve discussed before it’s a long term thing. It’s not a day to day thing. Yes we’re going to win today, yes we’re going to lose tomorrow, but we’re going to win in the long run. That’s the main thing.

Dave: So with the way that you price them up, you said that the favourite/longshot bias is alive and well but it also incorporates the skew sheet that you have. Is that still playing a key role in what you do?

Ben: Yeah 100%. I actually price somewhere actually to 130%, which is pretty much what a bookmaker would start their prices at. Then they get converted to 100%, then they get skewed. The skewed is what brings them right out. Normally 101 pop might just come out of the 150 or the 160, at 100% market. But when I put it through my skew it might come out to 300,400, 500, which is more like a realistic price that you would actually have back it up. On another scale; a $1.30 favorite might come out as a $1.70 once you do a straight conversation to 100%.

When you put it through my skew, this $1.30 probably comes back into a $1.50 or something like that. The shorter prices get dragged in a touch. The longer ones get dragged up. The ones in between pretty much stay the same. This is where we’ll gain our edge by pricing aggressively and then putting it through a skew which will expand the prices I suppose. They’ll bring the shorter ones down, the longer ones up and the middle ones pretty much stay the same.

Dave: So have you had to change the way you do the form at all? Because for example with the Trial Spy with Dean after we went public and had webinars and podcasts and articles and the like, we found a certain factors that he’d spoken about became overbet and he adjusted his approach accordingly. With the work that you’ve done with us and also other various media outlets, have you found anything that’s become exaggerated in the market and you had to pull back on that and not use it as a positive indicator?

Ben: Yeah I understand what you’re saying but I haven’t noticed anything. What I have noticed is that a lot of bookmakers are probably heading the way I’m talking about and pricing a little more aggressively. In the trots as we know a lot of shorter priced favorites go around and they probably starting a bit shorter. The long ones are still only 50/1, they should be 500/1, but they’re getting them out they’re a little bit so they’re probably learning that a little bit. Let’s face it, a lot of my prices are public.

Not the ones that I give to Champion Picks but to the 130%. In Victoria I did the paper prices and I noticed that a lot of them are taking their bit of notice about it. When we put them through the skew that’s where we get our edge, we also have a staking plan which no one gets. That’s where we’ll get our edge. As long their prices are still right and we’ve put them through the skew it doesn’t matter, that’s where we’ll our rates still.

Dave: Is it fair to say the way you’re operating now outside of the staking plan which we’ll speak about shortly, it’s pretty much the same as it was a year ago. You haven’t had to adapt too much during that period?

Ben: The way I do the form is still exactly the same? I still look for the same key points. I haven’t changed the way I do form. The only different approach that was brought into the system the last few months, is that we’re now rating each race, for instance a 1race is just a race that I’m comfortable with as we normally would have done. If I’m super confident in that race I might rate it 1.25 or 1.5, so we’re going to have a little bit extra on that race. On the flip side, if I’d have to rate the race all together, I probably have to rate it a 0.5, son we’ll just have half a unit bet on it.

This way still enables all our members to have a bet in every race and I’m still confident in the prices I put up. There might be something that I’m just not super confident about that race. We’re still going to have a bet and plenty of those are still winning. They’re just races that were previously made what we call red races, where we just didn’t have a bet whatsoever. We’re still giving everyone interest in every race, but we’re just rating them according to confidence. I think we’ve found six rate weeks works now, just I knew of those results. I think they’re coming out in three to four units per week better. If you times that by a month, 12 to 15 units a month. That could be the difference between winning and losing. I’m pretty happy with what’s going on there at the moment.

Dave: Yeah that’s a massive difference. We’re talking 15/20 units a month from the staking not even from any extra accurate form analysis that’s a massive difference.

Ben: And don’t get me wrong there’ll be some days where I’ve marked a lot of them 0.5 races and they’ve got up and we probably would’ve been better if they were all 1’s but again we’re not doing it day by day. It’s a yearly plan or a lifetime plan that we’re doing here. It’s not all about the short run; in the long run it’s turning out to be a better system and everyone else … I remember we did this live chat, they all seemed pretty happy with what’s going on. They’re happy to know that I’m extra confident on this race or they happy to know that there’s not so much confidence.

A lot of people will just sit out the 0.5 races. When we went up that’s entirely up to them of course, but they do like … so many times they’ll say to me, “Are you having confidence in this race?” I’ll say, “I’m confident.” We were just rating every race with the same weight. This way we’re giving each race a weight of confidence. The guys feel that there is more confidence with them too, knowing that I’m not confident in that race.

Dave: Just explain to guys in simple terms one is the standard. Then 0.5 for half the bet size. And 1.5 when you’re super confident. You’re basically outweighing three times as much on the races where you have a high level of confidence.

Ben: Yes, so for a normal race if we suggest to have $200 or two units if a $100 of your betting unit. If we suggest to have two units on something, when we’re super confident we’ll have three units on it which is two times 1.5. If we’re not so confident, we’ll have one unit on it, which is naught point five times one obviously. That’s the way we do it.

Dave: How do you handle either a losing run or just a period where you plateauing because no one went quite as high as you did last year, it was quite phenomenal. That raises the bar not only for you but for the members. Then when you have a plateau period, how do you handle that from form analysis and also the staking.

Ben: We keep our members away from cliffs when we’re having a bad run! I know this is a great example and we did win 10 months in a row, I think it was two losing months, you’ve got to get through their times. The main way is, I said it before, it’s the most important thing, its’ all about discipline. Betting is all about discipline. If you have a losing day and race A has been run and won at Menangle. Don’t go to Gloucester Park where you’ve got no idea and draw out your last 50 on something. That fifty will be handy for race one tomorrow when we’ve got proper ratings.

The lows are going to come, but we’re going to win and you’ve just got to make sure that bank stays there and you’ll have to spend the bank on rubbish bets or pickle bets as we like to call them, if you’re going out looking to make your money up that day, because we’ll get a bet tomorrow or the next day. We’re going to have losing streaks and we’ve just had them. It’s been the worst streak we’ve had since we’ve been going at Champion Picks. We’ve been going 13 months and have had 11 winning months and 2 losing months. This month though it’s all turned around and I think we’re 50 units up at New South Wales this month.

We’ve just won another 4 ½ today, Victoria are about 23 up after coming off 80 something, up last month. For those that stuck around and didn’t do the pickle bets they knew it was going to turn around, and it has. We’re back on track again and 50 units a month is huge considering our new resulting system we’re doing where we only use TAB and Ubet. So the results we get are easily achievable by everyone. Because they have an account everywhere or even just more than the two accounts that we use bet there. Betfair, we don’t use that as well and there’s always a better price there. To sum that up, it’s all about discipline. You can’t go looking for a winner where you haven’t got a clue, just if we’re not losing value we’re get it back tomorrow or the next day.

Dave: Yeah, and that’s something you’re saying from both sides of the fence. Was pondering also in your previous career bookie?

Ben: 100%. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there as a punter. I’ve been there trying to get out at Mandurah dogs or something like that. It’s not going to happen. Stick to the plan. Stick to the staking plans. If you’ve got a plan yourself … you might have some rules that go with what I give you. You might have a minimum price or whatever. Stick to it, don’t break it. Just stick to your plans and we’ll make money.

Dave: Because I think last time we had you on the podcast you mentioned that you actually turned Sky Channel off between races. You’re happy to have the music on or anything else just that you’re not tempted.

Ben: Quite honestly Dave, coming from someone that knew every horse going around, I couldn’t tell more than two runners in the Melbourne Cup last year. Soon as my race is off, I turn it over to channel V or put on the footy or something like that. Dynamic Odds I only have the races up I’ve got to watch for the day. I don’t have any other races up. I don’t want any distractions in that way. You’re not going to be betting on anything you shouldn’t be. You might hear bloody Gary Harley or someone caring on about the favourite one race and you know what he’s talking about and have that $100 bet when you shouldn’t have. If you not going to have a bet in the race turn the races off, who cares what wins the next gold or doesn’t. Go and put some music on or watch the replay of the dragons win last week or something like that.

Dave: One other thing I wanted to ask you Ben is timing and whether it’s patience or aggression in when to bet. There’s not many market makers in what you do. There’s actually not many people that actually do the form and put up the prices, instead there’s a lot of copy cats. How do you decide when you want to take a price or when you want to let the market to evolve?

Ben: Tough question Dave and it the hardest one to answer, because the guys are getting quite used to it. The ones on the live page they know when, I’m there telling them when to go or when to push the button. We’re not going to get it right all the time, but we’ll probably get it right 75/80% of the time. You get to learn how to do it. There’s no real answer. The guys that are on the live page are learning how to do it. They’ll tell me, “I think this one is going to go off.” They’re right, it goes off.

The best way to have a look is, what price are they on the totes. That’s a good guide. If something is $1.30 on the tote and the TAB want to put up $2.50 and we’re trying to take $2.20 or better. Probably suggest that you take it. That’s a pretty good pointer. Early markets that’s the way to look at it, also have all your bookmakers up, have Dynamic up, have it flashing red when something is firming. When you say it firm at two or three books, you know someone is going around back and it’s the same as standing in the room at the races. If you can still beat the top price elsewhere you’ll probably want to take it then.

As it gets close to the race at the tracks, because we all know there is no liquidity in Betfair with probably a minute to go, but you start see money stack up on the lay side which means someone wants to back it. You can be pretty sure that horse is going to go off. There’s another clear indicator. We have had a podcast or a live podcast, where we did actually do a couple of races I think. They which probably can still be on offer. We might actually do that again I think in the near future is this correct?

Dave: Yeah that’s right. People will get a chance to watch that live and others can watch a replay.

Ben: I think everyone had a good time. They really had a good time trying to understand when we did get nothing. We actually did it pretty well that night. I think we picked which ones were going off and which ones weren’t. We’ll get into that a bit more when we do that out live podcast. Basically they’re the key indicators to look for it I’d say.

Dave: Sounds good. To wrap up then, what would you say if someone came to … suppose either improve their results in the hardest racing side of things or even get involved because I know it’s something you’re passionate about? Whether they’re a member or not, what advice would you give them?

Ben: It’s about passion. It’s about doing the form, watching and learning the tracks, learning the drivers, learning the speed maps. Speed maps are huge in the trots. Horses up near the lead it doesn’t matter whether it’s this 700m track or it’s a 1400m track you still want to be on the pace. Its speed maps, betting movements, knowing your stables, knowing the patterns of the runners et cetera. Just generally asking questions, if you are a member and you want to know something please ask. It doesn’t matter if it’s been answered a thousand times or never before. It’s not a stupid question and you never going to learn if you’re not asking. Everyone got somewhere by asking.

Dave: Good advice. Thanks for coming on the show again and all the best.

Ben: Thanks Dave.

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