IN a brand new series at WLB, we're getting inside the minds of some of the betting industry's smartest minds by asking the experts to reveal their favourite resources, valuable insight and biggest wins in the game, with James from @ValueSportBets up next.
When did you first start betting? Can you remember your first bet?
I got caught hook, line and sinker in 1999 by a mailshot from Colin Davey, a horse-racing and greyhound tipster based in Newmarket, who sold his ‘guaranteed profit’ systems. It was a fee to access his methods and a daily premium phone call for the tips.
My first bet was a 2/1 ‘cert’ that, you guessed it, was well-beaten. It took me nearly a year of this type of losing and a decent proportion of student loan down the drain to realise that it was a complete scam and pull the plug.
However, due to my love of maths, stats and sports, particularly football, my interest was piqued.
What sports or leagues do you focus and bet on?
As an ardent football fan, I have predominantly concentrated on football betting, in particular the 1×2 and Asian Handicap markets. I don’t really limit myself to any particular leagues or countries as my primary aim is to find value odds which can present themselves anywhere.
This last year, I have found that value on the 1×2 markets has become more elusive to find, which makes me wonder whether even the soft bookmakers are becoming more efficient in their pricing (or just duplicating sharp books). It is definitely getting much more challenging finding an edge in football betting despite what you see on gambling Twitter!
More recently, I noticed that ice hockey was presenting some nicely-priced value picks in the 3-way 1×2 markets so have been tipping these until my recent enforced break due to family circumstances (DOI: I know nothing about ice hockey apart from the value prices available!).
What sites or sources do you use to follow them? What are your favourite websites for research?
I find oddsportal.com very useful from a visual perspective for prices and odds movements. I have also consistently used Joseph Buchdahl’s site football-data.co.uk as a hugely detailed source of historical prices, articles and guidance. Joseph’s data can be parsed with a fantastic workbook from betgps.com to create an impressive stats resource with historical prices built in.
I am a member of the excellent Poisonfoot.com which combines mathematical models, statistics and priced-based predictions amongst other resources.
To follow matches and for stats, I use the FlashScore, SofaScore and Stats Zone apps (big fan of Stats Zone app due to the huge amount of real-time stats, big chances, player influences etc. which can aid with in-play betting).
I also utilise a small selection of respected peers on Twitter for their advice – it has taken a number of years and mistakes to work out who is worth listening to!!
What stats do you consider the most important?
As a price-based value bettor, I used to be quite outspoken about how all stats were useless. As I’ve got older and gained experience with the ups and downs of betting, I’ve become less black and white with regards to my opinions. I just try to concentrate on what I am doing and help educate others who ask for my advice or help. I realise that others will utilise stats in their search for profit and good luck to them.
The best stats for me are those involving prices and price movements. I will often use Asian Market closing prices near to kick-off as an efficient reference point for perhaps the most accurate indication of likely outcome. I believe that this price will have reflected in it already many of the readily-available stats, team-news, weather etc. – let the price do the work for you.
Are there any stats or trends you feel are irrelevant?
I struggle with the concept of reliance on head-to-head and last 5-10 match outcomes to calculate probabilities that are displayed in coloured tables and sold as alerts or tips. These sheets are usually derived from the same readily-available statistical sources and, as such, will already be factored into the bookie’s price. In my eyes, this renders the tip/alert valueless and unlikely to produce a profit longterm.
Football is a game with many acts of randomness: to state that, as Over 2.5 Goals has occurred in 75% of the previous 10 matches of both teams combined, it must have a 75% probability of occurring in the next match (an almost entirely independent event) is a gross oversimplification and mathematically improbable.
I get that people will pay someone to do the work of sourcing these stats and packaging them together – outsourcing is a very productive method of getting stuff done efficiently. I just can’t see the value in the actual statistics as a stand-alone betting tool as they are often advertised.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt betting?
Gambling Twitter doesn’t, on the whole, represent true betting – quite the opposite. Flashy timelines advertising winner after winner and ROIs of 20%+ are there for one purpose: to lure more unsuspecting punters to buy their service/tips/stats sheets. Records of betting aren’t kept, losing bets deleted, betslips are doctored, losing Telegram services are deleted and new ones set up – you name it, I’ve seen it.
The only winners are those selling the service – the majority of punters flit from service to service, most too embarrassed to advertise their losses. If they do complain publicly, there is a group mob pile-on to shame them into silence: it’s a real cesspit.
Real betting is a bloody hard grind, often quite frustrating and requires real discipline to achieve any sort of longterm profit, which very few manage to do honestly or successfully.
The other lesson I’ve learnt recently is the need to evolve methods/approaches as perceived edges come and go – the markets are constantly evolving and so must the bettor to keep up.
Why is value important in betting?
For me, along with understanding the core principles of statistics and probability, finding value in a price underpins the whole principle of that elusive goal in betting: to achieve longterm profitability.
If I think that I have identified an edge whereby I can obtain a better price than what I calculate to be the true price then, regardless of individual results, over a large sample size (1000’s of bets) I should expect to be profitable. I should emphasise that my calculated true price would also have the bookmaker’s margin (or vig) removed from it before calculating the value.
There has been a raft of ‘value tipsters’ appearing recently on Twitter who identify inefficient prices at soft bookies – many don’t appear to be removing the vig from their calculated true probability, meaning that their perceived value may actually be less than calculated (or even valueless).
Have you any advice for punters looking to try and find an edge?
Firstly, you will not find an edge using readily available stats alone. Secondly, football markets (especially the main leagues and cup competitions) have got increasingly efficient whereby it is very difficult for the average punter to make any sort of profit longterm.
Any value in these markets is likely to get mopped up pretty early by those individuals/syndicates with hugely superior resources available to them. This means that you will either have to look further down the leagues or in more obscure countries globally where bookies may not be focusing as many resources.
Alternatively, if you have particular in-depth knowledge of a team/league/sport, it may be that your predictions, information or connections are superior to those who set prices at the bookies, thus giving you an edge. Be aware though that, if playing these types of bets at a soft book, you are likely to be restricted pretty quickly if you look like you’re on regular EV+ picks.
What’s your biggest betting win and how do you spend it?
My biggest winner for a single pick was SV Heider (Germany Regionalliga Nord) to win at odds of 12/1 against Hannover 96 II in August 2019. They won 2-0. I normally use winnings to compound my bankroll but must admit that I withdrew some on this occasion to pay off the family holiday!
Do you review your bets and track your winners/losers?
I have a full record of every bet I’ve posted so I can go back and review what’s working and what’s not. These are broken down into monthly profit/loss figures and have always been posted either on Twitter, in my Telegram channel or for members when I tipped for DasPunter.
I think it’s important that tipsters keep full contemporaneous records of their bets, not just for transparency, but it really helps to review systems, tweak criteria and support a continued evolvement required to keep up with the markets.
How do you cope with losing bets?
As mentioned above, betting is really hard – none more so than when on a significant losing streak. Every serious bettor should be able to attest to this.
A significant proportion of my 3315 picks to date have been Value UnderDog picks in the 1×2 football market. These are often higher odds picks and, as such, incur some gut-churning losing runs (had one losing run of 21 games). It takes a lot of discipline (and belief that there is an edge) to stick with a system after even 5-10 losing picks.
Persisting with this system for over two years has taught me a lot of patience and self-belief, even when others were criticising the system, or when the picks lost due to a 90min+ goal!!
There are times when taking a break is useful, but not because the ‘luck is not going my way’, more from a mental health perspective.
What’s the best thing about betting?
I just love the challenge of trying to find an edge and beating the bookie’s price. I enjoy reading and discussing different approaches with sensible people on Twitter and trying to pay forward what I’ve learnt to those who are interested.
Despite increasing restrictions and more efficient markets, it’s still a really fun hobby to supplement my love of sport, particularly football. I can’t wait to get stuck in when sport gets going again.
Best of luck and thanks for reading. If you have any questions, give me a follow and DM me @ValueSportBets.