How To - The Theory

In what I hope will become a regular feature of this website, I answer a reader question, asked by Sarah.

If you would like my thoughts on any question you may have please feel free to send me an email to phil AT


Most of the time I have a bet it’s on the team that I barrack for. Is this ok?

- Sarah W.

There are a two ways to answer this.

Firstly if you just have the occasional bets, and don’t really care if you are making or losing money over the long term; then I have no problem what so ever with backing your own to team. After all it can be a lot of fun and add that extra bit of excitement, especially if your team triumphs!

On the other hand, if you are a more serious bettor, the concern becomes that your judgement may be clouded, in that your heart starts to over rules your head. Further I have known some people that work in reverse, in that they always bet against their own side.
If this is you, whereby you have trouble removing your emotions from your betting decision, then NO - you should avoid betting on matches involving your own team!

However, if you can put your emotions to one side, you may have a tremendous advantage.

Most passionate fans know their own team inside and out; more so than most casual observers. Thus you should have a better understanding of how your team will perform in any particular week, and your strengths and weaknesses. This can be a great edge in betting.

I regularly bet in matches featuring my favourite AFL team, Essendon. This includes betting on both sides of the ledger - sometimes to win and sometimes to lose. But I don’t bet on every single game they play in, mainly when all the little and subtle things about the team give me the feeling that they may go particularly well or poorly.  It seems to work for more often than not - then again having worked in the industry for a while I have had to develop the ability to completely divorce myself from my own bias.

It all comes down to one key question which you have to ask yourself: Can you separate your emotions from your betting decision?

If yes, go for it! If not then stay away!

Recently there was a boxing fight in Australia between Danny Green and Paul Briggs that ended in controversy. Perhaps ‘outrage’ and ‘farce’ are better words to describe what occurred!
Briggs took a glancing blow on top of his head, and then seconds later withdrew from the fight. The knock to the head was so slight it wouldn’t have hurt a five year old, little lone knock out a professional boxer!
Then shock horror the bookies later revel that there had been a flood of money beforehand on the fight finishing in the first round; enough to slash the odds from around $10 into as short as $1.07.
There is no proof, but many wonder whether the fight was fixed. As a punter you would have been furious about what occurred!
On the plus side, there are a number of bookmakers who are now prepared to do what is morally right.   Plenty of credit must go to the betting agencies that afterwards decided to refund all losing bets from this fight, and do so in other events which also seem dubious.

But it makes you wonder about what else happens around the world? Tennis and cricket has not been without its controversies; while Italian Football (Lega Serie A) was rocked back in 2000 when eight players were found guilty of match fixing.
As a general better what can you do about it?
Unfortunately not much, other than trying to avoid betting on things you may suspect.
For example the ATP, the governing tennis body, a few years ago investigated Nikolay Davydenko for match fixing (for which he was cleared). Nevertheless, I for one have never bet on a match featuring him since.
Also keep an eye out for betting plunges. If the odds of a particular market change dramatically you now that something is up. Some people will say to “follow the money” and back it yourself – But I think you should avoid betting on the market all together. It’s just not worth it, and in some cases it has been known for some people artificially create a plunge so that they can then back the reverse side at greater odds!!

Moving on, there are also other factors which can affect the motivation of team or player. Sometimes a certain match may mean little in the overall scheme of things, and hence a team or player may not be at their peak.

Here are a few events that I recommend one should tread wearily before betting on:

•    Any match which is a dead rubber. By dead rubber I mean one whereby the result of the particular match does not affect an overall series result. A common example in cricket is the last Test match of a series when one team has already wrapped up the series.
•    When a team already has a finals place, or a certain position on of the Ladder/Table already wrapped up. What is their motivation for the match, or will they perhaps rest certain players etc?
•    One Day and Twenty20 cricket matches which will be soon forgotten about once they have been played. If anything, always err on backing the outsider in these matches.
•    Tennis matches in the first round or two in minor tournaments, particularly if one of the players comes from a country that has a bad reputation for match fixing.
•    Exhibition games and pre-season games.
•    Reality TV shows, particularly if the outcome is based on just a few certain judges decisions, and most certainly if the TV series is taped beforehand.
•    Awards, Most Valuable Players awards, Best and Fairest’s; particularly if the outcome is decided by a few select people.

Top 11 Betting Mistakes

There are a number of elementary mistakes than seem to be consistently repeated by countless in the betting world. Here are the eleven most common ones:

Inconsistent betting stakes

Is your betting all over the place? Are you betting $5 in one event and then $500 on the next.
If so, your betting is out of control.
The fact is you should be betting within a certain stake range, and there are very few reasons to step outside it.

Not getting the best or at least very close to the best odds available.

Pretty simple, but if you are only using the one bookmaker with uncompetitive odds then over time you are losing out.

Not getting proper value.

Say you rate something a team an 80% chance of winning, and you look around and the best odds you can find is $1.20. Many will place that bet – but you shouldn’t. The fair price is $1.25, anything less and you are being ripped off. Find a better price and you are laughing. Shortly we will add a feature to show you how to calculate the correct value.

Over betting on favourites.

It only human nature to back favourites. However as a general rule often there is little value in the favourites – the bookies make a large percentage of their profits by laying favourites.
You have the courage to back your judgement to find the upsets from time to time.

Falling in love with betting on a particular team, player or horse.

Often we win on a certain team, especially if we win big; we tend to look towards backing them over and over again. For example I had a number of successful bets of Juan del Potro (tennis) back in his early days when he was ranked around 100. As he started shooting up the ranking I felt very proud that I picked him to be a star before most.  Only problem is that I started to overrate him and back him in too many matches – often when he was unlikely to win or poor value.

Betting on events you know little about.

Betting on martial arts when you have never seen a fight? Be honest with yourself – if you have little knowledge on what you’re betting on your heading for trouble!

Blindly following tips without understanding the reasoning behind them.

We all get hot tips. Do you know the reason behind the tip? Why was it given to you?
I have given out plenty of tips in the Winning Post and other places every week, but with each I generally provide a rationale which I consider to be far more important. Look at the rationale behind the tips, if you don’t agree with the rationale don’t follow the tip.

Lack of discipline and patience.

The most successful punters generally have a strategy or guidelines on how they go about their betting. At the very least you should have a rough idea of what you can or won’t bet on.
But far too often I have seen people blow it all away by placing large bets at the last minute on a whim. This can be very dangerous!   
Don’t become overconfident if you get on a winning streak, plus on the flip side don’t go chasing your losses!

Over indulgence in Multi’s.

Probably one of the biggest mistakes out there – as it’s not an obvious one.
People love multi’s because the rewards are big – but so too are the risks.
Don’t get too greedy!
I will have an in depth look at this in an upcoming article, stay tuned.

Not keeping a record of betting performance or looking at it through rose coloured glasses.

Few punters go back and look at their betting results. Many might have a rough idea of how they are doing, but if you take a look at the figures you might be shocked to discover you’re not doing as well as you think you are. You can look through your history with most online bookies; make sure you look at it! Even better - open and maintain an excel file to track all of your bets!

Not learning from your mistakes!

We all make mistakes from time to time.
You most learn from them. Don’t be a fool and repeat the same mistake over and over!

Get Real

It's time to get real. The fact is that most people long term lose money.

But is it possible to win long term?

Yes, but it is very hard work.

The percentage most professionals consider a very good return is around 3 to 6%.

This is from guys and girls who live and breed betting, spending countless hours watching live sport or racing; and even more countless hours reaching their chosen specialities.

Then you have the odd compliers working for the bookies, who also spend countless hours reaching to decide their odds. Plus you would be niave to believe that some wouldn't have possible inside connections.

As a part timer or casual better you are up against it - It is extremely difficult to find an edge.

However there are ways to make profits.

The bookies are large, you are small - thus there are areas to exploit. The odds for any event do not always represent the team/horse/players exact chances of winning. There are other factors in play; eg the weight of money and market expectations. People love to back favourites, and many will blindly bet on their own team. You can use this to your advantage.

But If you bet purely to make money, and don't like the sports you follow then forget it. Try your luck at day trading instead. To beat the pack you have to love betting and love the sports you bet on, but more importantly be prepared to put in the hard yards.