Key Bets pro-punter Cameron O’Brien loves the Spring time, and with the Melbourne Cup carnival just around the corner we sat down to find out a little more about our Spring racing specialist.
Give us a brief rundown on your background in the bookmaking industry and as a pro punter.
I worked as an analyst for Mark Read for around two years, both doing form and trading on behalf of the company. I left there in 2002 then began building my own database. In 2007 I felt confident enough to punt solely for a living and have been doing so since. The database continues to grow and I now feel that I have access to one of the most important ratings databases in the country.
How would you describe your approach to giving a horse/race a rating for a recent run?
I rate (post race) horses based on a mixture of the times and sectionals their race runs, adjusted for the track speed of the day and various other adjustments (wind can play a part requiring meetings be split into different divisions for example) but also importantly the class of the race. It is a mixture of these elements that enables us to come up with what we think are the correct answers for these meetings.
How do you turn those raw ratings into a market for an upcoming race?
When I start doing the form, the first thing I do is look through each runner and try to identify what it’s top is. If it is lightly raced it’s top will likely be a projection, based on what data I have about the horse, or if it is established then it’s top will be known already. This is an important step as it gives me an idea of the “ladder” of this horse, what it is capable of at it’s best.
Then, it is all about what it can do today, based on the circumstances of today’s race. Of course they don’t always go to their best and if a horse is out of form then I can’t mark it near it’s top, but I first want to know that figure, what their top is. And if they are in top form and look like peaking, there might be things which will stop them anyway, like the map, the state of the track, the incompetence of the rider!
So, this is where the analysis comes in. It’s all very well having the ratings but you have to be able to aptly predict what will happen to them, what they like, what they don’t like, and come up with a predicted figure. Then from there, the predicted figure gets turned into a market based on how far they are off the top rater, etc, and normalising it all to a 100% market.
Which of these runners become Key Bets?
For me, there’s two types of key bets, the clear ones and the value ones. The clear ones must also be value (I made the mistake early on of tipping too many clear ones who were not also value, to my detriment) however there are also value ones who are not top. The clear top picks who are over my assessed price I will tip regardless, as they have a strong winning record and profitability. I will consider some who are not top pick, however, if they are not far off top and are significantly over my assessed price. They must not be just a little over, they need to be a good overlay.
What do you believe is your edge on the market? Why do you win?
Two things, and they work hand in hand: first, the ratings. Myself and Mark Rhoden work very hard on getting our ratings right, and we were taught by the best in how to do it. Then, that combined with years and years of experience doing the form and working out which types of horses peak or fail in certain circumstances mean I can turn those past ratings into accurate predictions. That coupled with sensible, selective betting as I mentioned in the previous question makes for really good bets overall.
What’s the reasoning behind covering multiple states?
We rate all states, and I select the best races from the two main states I do (Vic and WA) so that I think I am covering the best chances for a bet. I don’t personally do the form on all states, only Vic and WA and QLD in the winter (for EG, over the spring / summer it will mainly be Vic and WA) however the ratings work in all these states, they are accurate, I therefore like to utilise them in the best races I can find.
Do you work closely with Mark Rhoden?
Yes, Mark and I work closely together. He focuses on NSW racing, this has been his speciality for many years now. We work in partnership on this database, and are constantly discussing not just ratings and the form but racing in general, handicapping principles and betting methods.
The last six weeks have been sensational. What do you put that down to?
A couple of things. One, the period prior to that was very close to being a very good period, but suffered from a lot of close results, but also after a very close but bad meeting at MV six weeks ago I did some analysis on what types of horses I had been tipping to subscribers, and made some changes when some bad types were becoming obvious. Focusing again on highly rated, good value horses who map well was the key part of it, and those horses are ones who we can rely on to run well.
Any bookies in particular who you’d recommend for Key Bets members?
Yes Vicbet are offering a great service with their BOB product on all Australian racing, and Topsport also offer a very good service and will not limit you their best tote/sp product too much. Both are excellent bookies in my opinion. Those plus Betfair and their SP product (especially on the metros) is an excellent addition.
What’s a realistic POT figure to forecast over the next 12 months?
I think we can certainly make 10% on turnover as a realistic, perhaps conservative, figure the next 12 months. There will be ups and downs, and those downs take a hit on ROI so I don’t want to make outlandish predictions. 10% POT is an excellent return, and realistically I think we can forecast that confidently. However, I will be aiming for more than that and I’ll probably be a little disappointed if I don’t achieve more than that.
A question we get at times is why would you share your selections rather than just living off the punt. How do you answer that?
The win betting market is a big one, there’s more than enough room for many people to get on and not adversely affect one another. And when we do take a price and it shortens, in the last 5 minutes it’s the robots who determine the prices anyway. If the robots don’t like it then it doesn’t matter what happened earlier, it will drift. They are the biggest players out there and they don’t worry about anything other than their price, which makes plenty of room for selective analysts to tip their horses and we all get on.
Anything else you think a potential Key Bets member should know?
I guess I’d like to mention that there’s extra value in the Key Bets beyond just the tips. I preview as an extra a lot of the major races throughout the year, providing my markets, and I have found some fantastic winners for the subs in those, which were not until recently included in the results but are a bonus on top of the subscription. Winners like Best Solution in the recent Caulfield Cup, Boom Time in the one before at 50/1, Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup plus many more, is something I am really pleased to offer subscribers as an extra, a bonus, on top of their subscription.
Cam loves the Spring racing season and the last 12 months have been no exception, finding Rekindling (2017 Melbourne Cup) and Best Solution (2018 Caulfield Cup) at double-figure prices.
There is still time to cash in on that yourself, with a massive Melbourne Cup week ahead.
Don’t get left behind – make this Flemington Carnival a winning one.