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 Jeevan Jeyaratnam (@JeevesOdds) ) up next.
When did you first start betting? Can you remember your first bet?
Proxied Grand National wagers aside, I recall my first independent bets were via two Ladbrokes shops we had in Bromsgrove, where I live. This must have happened during the 1997-98 season, I turned 18 in the October of 1997. Given I still looked 12, there was no doubt any wagers would have been placed after this age-related milestone!
A few friends had picked up weekend coupons and had been studying them in the sixth-form common room. Eager to get involved, I found myself committing the sin of placing 50p ‘section list’ lines.
One particular comment from a friend has stuck with me ever since. He said, “don’t bet on a draw, neither team goes out to get a draw”. Although, as I later learned, games in Serie B disproved this theory, it has been a philosophy I’ve always remembered.
My first goalscorer bet soon followed, well actually it was a miracle “scorecast” bet. I recall Middlesbrough’s Mikkel Beck being involved, except, rather fortuitously, he wasn’t involved. My first return came because Beck didn’t start, but I’d landed the correct score, to which the full stake reverted. I never looked back, and goalscorers have since become the ‘currency’ that pays my bills.
What sports or leagues do you focus and bet on?
We’re a pretty small firm so we all chip in, I’m no exception. My leagues are Dutch Eredivisie, Russian Premier League, Danish Superligaen and Australian A-League. Most of my serious (or as I rather inaccurately term them, ‘professional’) wagers originate here. I feel I have an edge, afforded to me by my daily research.
Goalscorers aside, I like to focus on Asian Handicap wagers, where the best value is often to be found. These markets operate at tiny margins (~2%), and as a result you can often find juicer quotes about exactly the same 1X2 bets.
For example, a bet on Groningen on a -0.50 ball Asian Handicap selection is exactly the same bet as backing Groningen to win in a 1X2 market. It is always worth checking to see if your bookie offers Asian Handicaps.
There aren’t too many operators I’d recommend having money on account with that we don’t supply, so I don’t have a vast amount of options when it comes to having a wager.
What sites or sources do you use to follow them?
My team and I have an extensive list of trusted sites for each league, here is a taster of the best ones for the leagues I cover:
- Australian A-League – https://www.a-league.com.au/ – Squads are announced on here every Thursday morning during the season.
- Dutch Eredivisie – https://www.fcupdate.nl/competities/nederland/eredivisie/ – A great aggregator of Eredivisie news.
- Danish Superligaen – https://www.tipsbladet.dk/forside – Fantastic previews and news.
- Russian Premier League – https://www.rusfootball.info/pliga/ – A Russian football news aggregator, clean and easily translates. I must also tip my hat to @Vostok1981, Joel Amorin, who writes Russian Premier League previews for WhoScored.com. He is excellent, and we often share information.
What are your favourite websites for research?
The coronavirus-enforced shutdown has meant myself and the team have been obligated to dig ever deeper into our trusted sources for information on some of the lesser leagues we have picked up.
Since the start of March this has led us to build squads for, Serbian Premier League, Ukrainian Premier League, South African Premier League and Singapore Premier League – all to no avail as football postponed faster than we could publish.
We have had rather more luck with Belarus, where we are now producing pricing for goalscorers and player cards, while more recently the Nicaraguan Primera Liga have also been added to our repertoire.
My compilers are specialists at identifying local media sources for the latest news, but we do use the utterly brilliant www.transfermrkt.co.uk to help us track squads and transfers. Our go-to stats site is the paywalled www.soccerassociation.com , its uncluttered and responsive layout make it a joy to use.
www.whoscored.com have wonderfully innovated OPTA’s F24 data-feed and their heatmaps can often help determine an exact position when sources differ. www.soccerway.co.uk is another useful one, but be careful thinking that two sources reporting the same detail assure truth. For example, Soccerway and Whoscored are both supplied by the same OPTA data source.
Twitter is also a great tool for research and information. Use the ‘list’ function to focus and block most of the ‘noise’ and you’ll reap the benefit.
What stats do you consider the most important?
That depends on the type of market you are focusing on, but for goalscorers the key pointers are minutes per-goal, shots on-goal and, crucially, position. The biggest edges usually come via lesser leagues (by which I include all the ones mentioned above), and invariably because harder to find team news dictates a positional change for a particular player.
By way a couple of recent examples, Kasper Kusk has switched from a wide midfield position to a central striker for AaB in the Danish Superligaen. This change followed the sale of Mikkel Kaufmann to FC Copenhagen during the winter transfer window.
Kusk had been tried as a striker in a warm-up game prior the season restart in February. It was reported that he would be given a chance to occupy the same role against Silkeborg in the league. The report was listed here; https://www.tipsbladet.dk/nyhed/superliga/optakt-silkeborg-if-aab-5.
He not only played ‘up top’, but also scored the only two goals of the game. We had Kusk in for 23% of AaB goals which made him a value bet, with firms not part of our supply line, at 8/1 (true price 6/1) to score first and 5/2 (true price 15/8) anytime.
The interesting angle here is that transfermrkt, and others, list him playing RW in games that he has featured as the central striker. Soccerway, by contrast, have him in the correct position, but it highlights the importance of double-checking independent sources and not becoming reliant on one, or two, that are essentially the same.
Issues at Feyenoord saw left-back Ridgeciano Haps pushed into left wing before the coronavirus suspension. Some firms continued to price him as a left-back in a 4-1-2-3 formation, i.e 33/1 and bigger. While he hasn’t yet scored in the league in his new position, he did notch in the KNVB Beker (Cup) demolition of NAC Breda on 5th March.
Are there any stats or trends you feel are irrelevant?
Do not get lulled into recency-biased stats, they are oft used in marketing, but the message they portray is usually misleading. The gambler’s biggest error is believing wholesale change has occurred from tiny sample sizes. That said, as in the examples above, if the change has arisen for a specific reason, like a positional change, then jump on it, these ‘errors’ don’t last for long.
Comparing team’s head-to-head results over a span of more than a year is also pretty futile. The number of personnel changes at a modern-day club mean the only static variable is the club’s name.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt betting?
Understand the “true” price of a wager at any point before assessing its worth. This is far easier said than done, but by keeping records of your wagers you’ll build up a picture of whether your estimations of value are proven correct, or not.
You’ll need to keep extensive records to gather enough sample size to be confident, but don’t leave it to memory. You’ll find you’ll remember the wins, but not the losses, and it will taint your gambling habits.
Marco Blume, Trading Director at Pinnacle (if you don’t know about Pinnacle, then I’d suggest you research the firm and its impact on the entire market) once explained that their attitude to risk and positive approach to arbers, which is so different to 95% of the other bookmakers, was encouraged because they understood and trusted their ‘true prices at any time.
By offering these ‘true’ prices with minimal margin protection they have built up a highly profitable empire of high turnover, low margin business that would give most trading directors heart attacks.
If you don’t trust that you have the best compilers in the business then you’re going to get sunk pretty quickly. If you do trust your team, and your profit figures will provide the evidence, then you’ll be more than happy to take chunky wagers at your margin protected quotes.
Why is value important in betting?
Betting and gaming sits within the entertainment industry, so I like to think of a broad split between those who are happy to throw a £5 acca or ‘betbuilder’ away each week, for fun, and those who are rather more serious about their gambling. Given the forum, I’m imagining this piece is addressing the latter group. In which case, value is critical for anyone hoping to turn a profit year after year.
Value is simply betting at odds that do not fully represent the likelihood of an event occurring. Of course, determining what is “value” is the hard bit. If you can find a niche to beat the book (and can keep an account open), then you will be profitable long-term.
That said, algorithms are constantly evolving and an edge one day can vanish the next. It is important to understand when your edge has been eroded and stop to reevaluate.
Have you any advice for punters looking to try and find an edge?
A common fallacy is that multiple bets always offer negative value. Of course, yes, accumulators multiply the bookmaker margin, and if you think the odds aren’t favourable then you’ll pay the price in terms of negative value. However, if you feel you have a positive edge across more than one bet then you are multiplying your positive value.
What’s your biggest betting win and how do you spend it?
An ex-colleague of mine @fryboyracing once tipped up a 25/1 and 33/1 double on the horses, that was a great evening in the office, albeit to small stakes! Fryboy (Simon) remains the sharpest horse racing mind I’ve ever come across, he’s first class.
I’m a fairly small staking punter, and the nature of my wagers (mainly singles) means that expected winnings will never total jackpot payouts. The joy of being proved right is the main buzz for me, I keep my gambling accounts separate, retain money (with reputable clients) in the accounts and hardly ever make deposits, or withdrawals.
My biggest win was seeing an advert in the Racing Post for a junior odds compiler in Birmingham, while I was working in a William Hill shop in 2005, it set me off on a dream career in a world that I have an awful lot of love for.
Do you review your bets and track your winners/losers?
I split my bets into “fun” and “professional”, for someone like me, who doesn’t bet for a living or have any intention of doing so, but instead works on the other side of the fence, it is important to separate the two. I’ll often have a small “fun” bet (usually player cards in a betbuilder) when watching a game, I’m under no real illusion that I’m getting value, but equally I won’t settle for blatantly undervalued selections.
My “professional” bets represent times when I truly believe I have an edge, I’ll still bet those to pretty small stakes but I’ll keep a record and assess them in a detail I simply wouldn’t for a “fun” bet.
How do you cope with losing bets?
It goes without saying that you should never wager more than you can afford to lose, though that said, nobody likes losing! Honestly, the “professional” bets, especially if starting prices prove my initial thoughts correct, losing don’t worry me. Get enough of those bets booked and you will be in front long-term.
It’s frustrating when a “professional” bet goes the other way and ends up bigger at KO, these wagers require far more investigation and analysis to figure out what you may have missed.
Fun bets can be frustrating, but provided you are in control and they have given me 90 minutes of increased enjoyment, then win or lose, I’ll take it.
What’s the best thing about betting?
Working in the industry is an absolute gift, there’s so much to learn, so many angles from which to approach each and every facet. The pre-Cheltenham Betfair market was a source of incredible interest, with millions matched. Watching this evolve was truly a fascinating study of the wisdom of the crowd theory.
Without thinking about it we make decisions based on probability and chance every day. Betting markets simply offer a lens from which to view how successful our interpretations of that are. They are simple representations of more varied and complex events, and can help provide a source of understanding that cuts through media hyperbole.
About Jeevan Jeyaratnam
Jeevan Jeyaratnam (@JeevesOdds) is a senior odds compiler for Abelson Odds, which is part of Abelson Info. Abelson Odds are B2B providers of goalscorer and player card markets for dozens of football leagues around the globe, supplying a host of tier one bookmakers, including, SkyBet, Flutter, William Hill and GVC.