When to bet… early or late? First things first: nobody knows exactly when to bet every time.
You need a crystal ball to work that out. Betting markets are the sum of the opinions of everybody participating in them. And those opinions are ever-changing, so knowing when to bet is not a science.
But is betting at the right time an art? Something you can work at, and perhaps get better at?
We asked pro punter Gareth Phillips.
When to bet: Track conditions & bias
This is obviously a factor: you can’t know exactly how a track is playing early in the morning before a race has been run. So is that one factor in the ‘bet late’ argument?
“The track is crucial. I’m not a track bias ‘fiend’ by any means but there’s a lot of people out there who are right into it. And it actually affects the marketplace often more than it does the actual result, I think,” says Gareth.
“You see it a fair bit… the first four leaders win and everybody’s an alarmist. Apparently you then have to be in front to have any chance. So you see straight away: on-pacers are $5 into $4 and backmarkers go $8 out to $12.”
“But you can’t overestimate it. It’s four races! To have a correct sample size of anything it should be 1,000! We don’t even have enough of a sample after one full race meeting to come up with a reliable predicted bias. So it’s fairly plastic.”
“Four races? Three of them they might’ve gone really slow and the other was a $1.70 chance that happened to be an on-pacer.”
“Sometimes with wet tracks it’s obvious when there’s better going… but when it comes to the ‘on-pace’ scenario, so many people dive into it.”
“I don’t know how many people actually do what I do – look at the times and compare them to standard to come up with the tempo? I don’t think everybody who has an opinion does that. It might well be a leaders’ track, but I haven’t got enough proof to run with that confidently.”
“But as I said, the market reacts and that’s where it can be more useful. You can actually get a better price about your selection than you might have previously. And some that you weren’t going to be on can get out to a backable price. So there can be real advantages to betting later. Especially on Betfair where prices can get right out. And often those bigger prices are the difference between winning and losing for the day or the week.”
So even if you have bet early, it’s not automatically a ‘forget’ situation from then until race time. Changes in the market can mean other chances become backable, and you shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger and back another horse when the market has changed.
When to bet: Market percentages
Market percentage is obviously very high early, which in a purely mathematical sense means it’s harder to win.
“It’s a huge factor,” says Gareth.
“The market is so tight these days and it really is a game of inches – or millimetres. If you’ve taken an early price and it then gets right out late when the percentage is coming down, it can make or break your week.”
Of course, that’s not to say you never bet early.
“I don’t have the crystal ball. You get the information you have and just try to make the best decision you can based on what you believe are facts,” says Gareth.
“Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, a lot of it depends on margin. For example, I might’ve marked one $10 and I see $21 has gone up early. Even if I don’t necessarily think the market will like it and it’ll shorten, in that case there’s enough margin there for me to take the price anyway. I’m thinking okay, I think I’m pretty safe here that I’m getting good value and I can take the price. I have to trust what I do and if I’ve marked something $10, I have to believe that it’s not going to get too far beyond $21.”
So there’s a question there you need to ask yourself: how confident are you in the work you’ve done to get to your price? Somebody like Gareth – a full-time form analyst who’s been at it for years – rightly has that confidence in what he’s done. And following him means you can have that confidence too.
When to bet: Conclusions
So have we answered the question? Probably not!
As we said at the start… it’s not a science. And there’s no doubt there’s a certain ‘feel’ to it as well. Markets behave in certain ways and those who follow and study them throughout the day get to know them.
But what can we take away from Gareth’s comments? Here’s the three important factors:
- Be wary of track bias – not always because it’s actually there, but because the market is often too sensitive to it and that moves prices
- Be aware of the market percentage you’re betting into: it’s very high early, so you want to be confident you’ve got a genuine market error, or it may well drift.
- Get a set of prices – whether they’re your prices or somebody else’s – that are of demonstrated quality. You can then be confident that they’ll be right more often than they’re wrong.
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