learn to bet
  • Should you bet early or bet late?
  • Can you tell if your selection is likely to drift or firm?

In Part 1 of this series, I explained the basics of getting a good price. In Part 2, I explained how to use the lay market on Betfair to create another price option and in Part 3, I explained how to choose between BOB, Betfair SP and Fixed Odds. Now, in Part 4, I take a deep dive into market movements and explain the next level of knowledge you need to decide when to bet.

When To Bet: Early or Late?

One of the common questions with fixed odds is whether to bet early or late. The answer? There are advantages to both and it depends on your situation.

Bookies use large market percentages (i.e. worse prices) in early markets to protect themselves from price errors (and partly because they can get away with it). Bookies are more confident in their prices in late markets when they want to attract more bets. Therefore, the market percentage and overall prices are better in late markets.

However, early markets contain less information (ie – less people have bet), which means that early prices contain more errors that sharp punters can exploit.

You could also monitor prices and pick up the best price on your selection as it fluctuates throughout the day.

Profitable punters tend to beat the starting price. In theory, the closer you bet to start time, the more accurate the prices become and the less profitable opportunities will exist.

For those reasons, professional punters tend to bet early or monitor prices. They bet early when they see “overs” they think will shorten. And they monitor prices when they think a price will drift, or their selection hasn’t reached its minimum price for a bet.

When To Bet: Do Your Research

The decision to bet early or late (or to monitor prices) all comes down to research. That means confirming that fixed odds is the best price type for your selections, finding out how your selections perform when bet at different times (early and late) and confirming that your current approach is the best approach.

If you create your own ratings, you may want to research how the selections with a big edge perform relative to the selections with a small edge. Big overs may be worth backing early but small overs may be worth monitoring for a better price (or leaving altogether).

When you’re following a popular tipster, whose prices shorten after release, then backing fixed odds early (i.e. at release) is almost always the best way to go.

When you back your own selections and don’t know whether they’re profitable or not, you should assume you have no advantage in early markets – because most punters don’t. In that case, you want to bet in late markets where the market percentages and prices are better. Or, better yet, take advantage of BOB or Betfair SP.

When To Bet: Drift or Firm?

Knowing which way the market will move on your selection is an important factor in backing the best price. If your selection is going to drift, you want to back it later when the price is better. If your selection is going to firm, you want to back it now before it shortens.

Personally, I’m a “price follower” rather than a “price maker”. So even when I see what appears to be a cracking price, I check whether the market is drifting first. What appears to be an excellent price may simply be the bookmaker pushing out their price first before the other bookmakers. The price may drift further and a better price may become available later.

Being able to predict the way a market will move will help you back a better price. However, given the uncertain direction a market can move in, another important skill is being able to read which way the market is moving, and either betting or waiting based on that information.

When To Bet: Market Mechanics

Understanding market mechanics will help you predict the way a market will move.

The first point to consider is that, on average, prices drift over time as the market percentage gets better. So, when it’s early in the day and there’s not much movement on your selection, or the market percentage is large, you can expect your selection (on average) to drift.

In other words, it’s generally better to wait and bet later, than to bet early into a higher market percentage.

This is particularly important near start time, when market percentages can still be still high even minutes before the jump. When the market percentage across most bookies is 125% with five minutes to go and you know it will end up around 117%, then prices overall must drift. Look back at similar markets in previous weeks to know where the market percentage should finish.

Most markets have one winner and the chances of all the selections in those markets always adds up to 100% (plus the market percentage). When the price on one or several selections firm, the price on other selections must drift (and vice versa) in order to balance the market and maintain the market percentage. That’s especially the case with favourites, who have the biggest influence on the market.

For example, if the favourite and third favourite are firming and you want to back the second favourite, you would expect your selection to drift (even if it hasn’t yet) because the bookmakers need to balance their markets to maintain the market percentage.

9am on race day (and 2pm for night meetings) is a critical time in Australian racing. It’s when Minimum Bet Limits (MBLs) kick in and bookmakers allow punters to bet large amounts. While it’s tricky to watch the markets on several races at once, you need to have your wits about you at this time. It’s when the big players (and followers of successful tipsters) can smash prices and if someone important (or several people) likes your selection, you want to back it now before its price is gone.

When To Bet: Market Patterns

The markets can appear a chaotic place where prices move up and down and all over the place. And to a certain extent, that’s true. Randomness is inevitable in the marketplace because different punters with different influence bet different amounts on different selections at different times!

However, there is more order in the market than what may first appear. The main reason is because prices tend to move towards their true price, which is very close to (if not the same as) their starting price.

When you look closely at the fluctuations on a selection – whether it’s official price fluctuations or changes in price on a single bookie – you’ll see that a price tends to move in the same direction as its previous fluctuation. You can assume a price will continue in the same direction until it does otherwise.

When To Bet: Static Prices

Of course, there are market patterns other than a straight firm or a straight drift.

Prices will often remain static (“flat line”) and hover up and down with minor fluctuations around the same price. That occurs when a price is around its true price, but also when there is no major volume on the selection. You should always wait when a price is hovering around the same price to see whether it drifts or firms or stays the same.

We also know that prices can change direction. That occurs when a selection drifts to a good price and gets backed. It also occurs when a selection is backed in early markets, but other selections are backed in later markets, which causes the original firmer to drift. The different times that money is bet on different selections is the major driver of randomness in markets, as well as changes in direction.

You almost need a crystal ball to predict a change in direction. Given that most prices continue in the same direction as their previous move, assume the price will follow the same pattern until the direction changes.

Once you notice a change in direction, that’s the time to back your selection when it starts to firm, or wait longer when it starts to drift.

< Getting The Best Odds Part 3: Which Dividend Type?

Getting The Best Odds Part 5: Dynamic Odds >