In Part 1 of this Getting the Best Odds series, I said that you should never back anything less than Best of the Best (BOB) on horse racing. And while that’s true when you compare BOB, Top Fluc and the totes, there’s really a choice between three price types at the races: BOB, Betfair SP and Fixed Odds.
Choosing the correct dividend type for your situation will improve your average price and your profits. Before we dive into how to decide, it’s good to understand some key characteristics of each price type.
Best of the Best (BOB) is the best price out of the three totes (Vic TAB, NSW TAB, UBET) or Top Fluctuation – whichever price is higher. BOB is a is “bet and forget” price type, which means you can plonk your bet on at any time up to 30 minutes before the race and you’ll get the same price regardless of when you bet. The average market percentage on BOB is a very competitive 105%.
Betfair Starting Price (Betfair SP or BSP) is a separate market to the standard Betfair market. Betfair SP is also a “bet and forget” price type where you can bet any time up until start time and you’ll get the same price regardless of when you bet. The average market percentage on Betfair SP (once commission is removed) is an excellent 102%.
Fixed odds are the standard odds that bookmakers have offered since races were first run. As the name suggests, your odds are locked in or “fixed” at the time you bet. I include the standard Betfair market in this category because you lock in your price at the time you bet there as well.
The fixed odds offered by bookmakers change over time as money is bet on one selection or another and market percentages are tightened. The changes in fixed odds mean the difference in price between the best fixed odds and worst fixed odds on offer over the duration of a market can be huge.
The market percentage on a fixed odds market at the jump is 108-110%. And that’s when you look at the best price on each selection across every corporate bookmaker available. Fixed odds market percentages are worse when you look at individual bookmakers and earlier markets.
The market percentages make it sound like Betfair SP is the best option and fixed odds the worst. So why do the pros always bet on fixed odds?
The reward with fixed odds is that the best fixed odds available on an individual selection is almost always better than BOB or Betfair SP.
It is a double-edged sword however, because the worst fixed odds on an individual selection is almost always worse than BOB and Betfair SP. Both edges of the sword are important.
So, how do you decide which price type to back?
Time is an important factor when deciding whether to bet on BOB, Betfair SP or Fixed Odds.
It takes time to monitor the market and back good fixed odds prices and many punters just don’t have the time (or don’t want to commit it) to do that.
Backing the best fixed price available when you look at a market won’t cut it with fixed odds (unless you know the best time to bet, see more below) because the market percentage on fixed odds at any one point in time is poor relative to the other bet types (108-110% at best) and will cost you money in the long run.
When you don’t have the time to monitor fixed odds, BOB or Betfair SP are better price options. But which one should you back?
Betfair SP has the best market percentage but from my own analysis of thousands of runners, BOB is better on horses $7.50 or less in the market. Once your horse is greater than $7.50, then Betfair SP is the way to go.
Sometimes you’ll bet on a race less than 30 minutes before the jump, in which case you’ve missed the opportunity to bet on BOB.
In that case, Best Tote + SP is the best option on selections up to $7.50, after which Betfair SP is the best option. If the best price type you can get is Best Tote, then Best Tote and Betfair SP are similar on selections up to $7.50, after which Betfair SP takes over as the best price type.
If you’re betting within 10 minutes of start time and have the time to monitor fixed odds, then that’s a better option again. You can always back Best Tote or Betfair SP at the death knock but you might spot your horse being backed and pick up a better price on fixed odds than Best Tote or Betfair SP will provide.
The key when it comes to choosing between BOB, Betfair SP and Fixed Odds is research. Understand how your selections perform on different price types (e.g. BOB, Betfair SP and Fixed Odds) and compare them to the price you backed them at. That depends on having a record of your selections of course!
Look up the BOB (i.e. BOB = Best Tote or Top Fluc), Betfair SP and Best Fixed Odds available at the jump on your selections. Were any of these price types better (on average) than the prices you backed? If so, you should switch to that price type. If not, then stick with your current strategy.
If you want to take your analysis to a different level, you can also research how your selections perform on Fixed Odds at different times of the day. For example, I would start with 9 am on race day, 11 am on race day and start time. Be wary that prices from the days before a race can be inflated by scratchings and are difficult to analyse (i.e. you need to know the deductions and take them away from your price).
The advice in parts 1 and 2 of this series requires a simple comparison of one price to another to determine the best price on a selection. In this part, we need to analyse a whole series of bets to determine the best price type. So how do you do that?
You want to look at two factors when you analyse the best price type for a series of bets:
It’s not obvious to analyse the second part, but it’s important. While profitable punting depends on skill, randomness determines which selections win. Looking at every price (even the losers) ensures you get an overall indication of the quality of a price type, not just the price on winning selections.