In Part 1 of this Getting the Best Odds series, I introduced you to some of the basic concepts of getting the best price you can. Here in part 2, I take a deep dive into getting the best odds on Betfair and how you can use it to create a better price.
With their competitive market percentages and business model that welcomes all comers, Betfair is renowned as a great place to get a great price, even once the commission is removed (see Part 1).
Betfair is an exchange where you can back and lay selections (ie, you can be the bookmaker), so while there’s plenty of good prices on the back side, it’s the less familiar lay side of the market where you can find some hidden gems.
In any two-selection market such as Head to Head, Over / Under or Asian Handicap, the lay market essentially provides another price to bet on… and often provides a better price than the back market.
We’ll use an AFL match – Collingwood vs Melbourne – as an example. The back / lay prices for Collingwood are $1.30 / $1.32, and the back/lay prices for Melbourne are $4.00/$4.30.
Let’s say you’re keen on Melbourne. Most of the time, you’d just back Melbourne and leave it at that. But you have two options on Betfair: you can either back Melbourne to win @ $4.00 or you can lay Collingwood to lose @ $1.32 – it’s the same bet. The question is, which one is better?
One clue is in the market percentage. In the above situation, the market percentage on the back market is 101.9%, and the market percentage on the lay market is 99.0% (a standard lay market percentage is always less than 100%). Betfair usually shows you the market percentages above the prices (or you can work them out yourself).
You might notice that 101.9% is 1.9% away from 100% and 99.0% is 1.0% away from 100%. That’s key because the closer a market percentage is to 100% (and this applies to back and lay markets), the better the prices are.
The market percentages in this example tell you that one or both of the lay prices are better than the back prices. In other words… if you’re having a bet on Melbourne on Betfair in this example, you should be laying, not backing.
The next question is, what price are you getting on the lay? And more importantly, how can you compare it to the back prices on the corporate bookies (and Betfair for that matter)?
Laying is confusing and that’s why I use Excel spreadsheets to do the hard work once I’ve nutted out a problem. The trick is that you can convert lay prices into back prices. And that allows you to compare apples with apples. Here’s the Excel sheet I use for this query.
In the above example (and the example in the file), Melbourne’s back price (once commission is removed) is $3.85. When you convert Collingwood’s lay price ($1.32) into a back price, it is $3.97. $3.97 is a better price than $3.85, so laying Collingwood (rather than backing Melbourne) gets you a better price.
Of course, if a corporate bookie was offering $4.00 on Melbourne, then you’d back that. But the point is that this process of converting a lay price into a back price creates another price option (the lay market) and allows you to compare the lay price to back prices to see which price is better.
It takes a bit of brain power to work out the lay. But in a game where price is king, then I’m grabbing the best price I can, even if it kills a few brain cells in the process.