The Heath Shaw and Nick Maxwell betting scandal in 2011 attracted plenty of attention but lost in the furore was why he was so easily caught.
Many were perplexed how so few bets could cause the betting market to fluctuate dramatically, with the odds of Nick Maxwell kicking the first goal slashed from $101 down to $26.
Further cries of ‘it was just a measly $10 bet’, is perhaps the biggest public misconception emanating from the whole scandal.
So I am going to let you in on a secret that few of the bookmakers will openly admit to.
The market for the first goal kicker in the average AFL match is relatively thin. In particular the quantity of money bet on defenders like Maxwell is minuscule.
In this case, the overall dollars bet by Shaw and all those party to the inside information totalled $130. (For a full break down of the bets placed read here: http://www.afl.com.au/news/newsarticle/tabid/208/newsid/118641/default.aspx)
Thus at odds of $101, the bookies were liable for a $13,130 payout - collectively the bookies stood to lose $13,000!
While that may not sound like a lot considering the millions of dollars bet annually on the AFL; it is a massive exposure for the bookies to hold on a rare option in this exotic betting market.
The bookies seldom revel how much they have laid on any particular market, or options within that market, but as a general rule forwards receive the majority of the betting action, with occasional small amounts on midfielders. Defenders are hardly ever shown any love from the punters.
In fact, it would not surprise me if there are numerous matches throughout the season when there is NO money whatsoever placed on Maxwell.
As part of proper risk management most bookies set limits on how much exposure they can take on any option in any market, as well as limits on individuals. These limits vary from bookmaker to bookmaker, and differ on the various markets. Some of these limits can be as little as $1,000 or $2,000 dollars.
Hence when several bets were placed on Maxwell red lights would have lit up everywhere! Often all that will occur is the bookies just reduce their odds, but other times, as in this case, it can spark an investigation.
Interestingly, as a hypothetical, I don’t believe Shaw would have been caught if the bets placed where on a short placed favourite. Let’s instead assume that at the team meeting before the match it was decided that Travis Cloke would play one out in the goal square from the opening bounce, with all of the other forwards outside the 50m mark. The $130 of bets would have only created exposure of a few hundred dollars, and would not have at all stood out to the bookies as being unusual, and it’s unlikely anyone would have taken a closer look at it.
As a final note I don’t consider Shaw’s bet as measly, after all is was placed for a $1000 win!
If instead of betting at the TAB if Shaw had have placed the bet with myself over Betfair and Maxwell kicked the first goal, I would have been $1,000 the poorer. If I later found out that Shaw with his inside information was the identity of the person on the other side of my bet that I had placed in good faith, it would be an understatement to say that I would be fuming!