Here’s a jarring way to think about market percentage.

Imagine you went to download a bookie’s app… and you had to pay for it. Or walking down to your local TAB, and there’s a security guard on the door asking you for a cover charge.

You have to pay before you have a bet. Outrageous, yeah?

Of course.

But the reality is, everybody pays to have a bet. The price of it is staring you in the face.

##### Market percentage

If you’re wanting to make money betting, the first thing you have to understand is the market percentage.

The market percentage contains the price you pay to have a bet with a bookie. The higher the percentage, the higher the price you’re paying.

The true total percentage in any sporting event, or race, is 100%. That’s the sum of the likelihoods of all the possible outcomes.

But bookies need a margin.

Here’s a simple horse race. The odds are calculated by simply dividing the probability into 1.

For example, the probability of So You Think winning the race is 21%.

1 / 21% = 4.76 (rounded to \$4.80 in the below market)

 Horse Probability Odds 1. So You Think 21% \$4.80 2. Winx 34% \$3.00 3. Octagonal 22% \$4.60 4. Might And Power 2% \$50.00 5. Northerly 7% \$14.00 6. Makybe Diva 21% \$4.80 7. Sunline 11% \$9.00 8. Better Loosen Up 1.5% \$67.00 119.5%

What’s striking here – from a plain logic point of view – is that the sum total of all probabilities is 119.5%.

That can’t be true. There can only be one winner, and whatever the individual chances, the probability that it’ll be one of the eight horses that starts is 100%.

The total market percentage is increased past 100% by inflating the individual percentage of some or all of the horses.

Crucially, you’ll notice that the percentages have an inverse relationship with the odds. Look what happens when we increase the percentages for So You Think:

21%: 1/21% = 4.76

25%: 1/25% = 4.00

30%: 1/30% = 3.33

There you have it: the higher the percentages, the less the bookies pay out to winners, and the more they keep for themselves.

##### Market percentage: why it’s important for your profits

The key is this: the higher the market percentage, the harder it is to cover your losses with collects.

Profiting from punting is about catching up the market percentage, and going above it to make a profit.

We spoke about the price of punting before. An easy way to think about market percentage is it’s the price the bookie charges you to bet.

If the market percentage is 119.5%, the price is an additional 19.5 cents for every \$1 you bet. That’s the price you have to pay before you can even start to make a profit.

It’s a big hurdle to clear, just to break even.

The most important, basic thing you can do to start being a winning punter is to ensure you’re betting into lower market percentages. You’re paying the bookies less, making it easier to win overall.

##### Market percentage pointers

For example, it’s almost impossible to win in the long term on markets like first goal scorer markets, or obscure markets with lots of options, compared to simple, common markets.

2. Have multiple accounts

A simple way to lower your own market percentage is to ensure you’re always getting the best odds on your bets. If you’re lazy and just place all your bets with one bookmaker, you’re costing yourself money when there’ll be a better price on some selections elsewhere. Even small moves – like \$2.60 to \$2.80 – make a big difference to your profit.

3. Bet late

Check out opening market percentages versus closing market percentages. They’re always better at the end, when the bookies have more certainty around what they’re holding on the race and are happy to drop the price they’re charging punters.

4. Use the correct price types

There’s plenty of options out there, but you should never bet anything else but fixed odds, Best of the Best or Betfair.

If you’re a regular weekend punter, (not backing a set of tips where the price is likely to shorten dramatically on release), then you should always back BOB (favourites) or Betfair SP (roughies). These bet types have the lowest market percentages.

Overall, you’re betting into a market where the market percentage is excellent. You’re not betting into bad early market percentages, and not betting on bad price types with worse market percentages.

Profitable punting is about value and good value depends on a good price. The closer your starting point is to zero, the better the chance you have to win.

For more guidance on market percentages and the basics of betting, check out The Betting Academy.

Pro-punter Cameron O'Brien knows how to find value winners at big prices. He's done it time and time again for his Key Bets members. They get all of Cameron's tips from right across Australia, including stake, recommended price and runner comments.

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