Betting system - every punter has to make decisions part 1

Last updated: 09 Dec 12:45

Every punter has to make decisions. Some prefer to go on gut instincts, some back their own teams through blind loyalty, others prefer a statistical approach. I've been making my living from betting since the late 1980s. I prefer to take a statistical approach - but there is a little bit more to it than that.

Whilst the public's general knowledge of betting is better than it's ever been, there are still huge holes in their knowledge. This is evident to me through the communications I have with people who enjoy sports betting.

Around 1985, I recall spending more hours than I care to remember researching horse race betting systems. I used to read the Race form Handicap Book every Thursday, paying particular attention to the Betting Systems section. We all love a system, don't we?

Our love of systems is driven by our need to have some sort of statistical evidence to reassure us we're on the right lines. If the system can make the decisions, we don't have to. A system potentially takes away the need for further form study once the rules have been established.

The very first betting system I devised was for National Hunt racing. I would back all horses that won their last race providing they'd won by 5 lengths on more and were running over a distance that was within one furlong of their last race winning distance. I painstakingly went through several years of previous season results to check how efficient this system was. There were no computers in those days. It all had to be done manually. The system was limited to handicap hurdle and handicap chase races.

There was a moral to this that I didn't fully appreciate until many years later. I made quite a lot of money from strictly following these system rules but I started to become slightly twitchy about some of the bets that were being flagged. Sometimes a horse would be flagged after it had won a two or three runner race. That wasn't factored into the system. Some horses had won very uncompetitive non-handicap races before and were now running in a handicap. Then we had horses upped in grade after winning selling or claiming races. So, whilst the betting system was relatively simple, it became apparent that it worked best if some level of personal judgement was added.

Of course we can develop all sorts of more complicated systems that try to take much more data into account but from that day in 1985 through to this day in 2018, I still believe that betting systems are best served if there is some level of personal intervention. The day that computers can do everything a human being can do will be the time to think personal judgement is redundant but when that day comes the bookies will not be making any mistakes, and it won't be possible to make profits from betting anyway.

My betting patterns changed as the 1980s wore on. I've always been a single win bet merchant but the way I selected my bets moved on from being rigidly systems-based to what I would refer to as method-based. Since those very early days I have always preferred to be the final arbiter in deciding whether I place a bet; not taking any numbers totally at face value. The numbers can do 90% of the work. That's the best we can ever hope for from the numbers.

My interest in horse racing has been awakened over recent months. I stopped betting on horses around the turn of the millennium as I concentrated solely on football. Using methodical approaches to betting on football and horses requires very similar thought processes as we work towards finalising our bets. This is what I want to discuss further today.

Take betting at even money, whether it's a football bet or a horse bet, around 48% will win. The basis of our decision-making has got to be geared around turning that base 48% win rate into a 52% win rate for us. In that way, we turn a starting position that will lose 4% on turnover into a profit of 4% on turnover. The fundamental question I ask myself is: Why should this bet fall into the 48% winners as opposed to the 52% losers? What makes it a stronger than average candidate to be priced at even money?

In effect, we have to have an idea in our mind as to what constitutes a good value bet at the odds, and equally important, what constitutes a bad value bet at the odds.

Sticking with the even money concept, even money bets will come in various guises. In footballing terms, the home team might be priced at 2.00 even though they've been out of form but the bookies feel that price is justified because the away side has been even more out of form. In horse racing terms, an even money favourite may be a horse that has been running poorly in a higher grade and is now taking on poorer opposition. Will it be good enough now it's dropping in grade? This can only be properly quantified by looking at the opposition. Are they likely to be at their peak? Are they improving? Or are they in a bad run of form too?

Consequently, finalising a bet doesn't just mean assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the team being considered as a bet, it involves assessing the opposition too.

Part 2 of Betting system - every punter has to make decisions is already up on the site - enjoy reading it!

Mike Lindley


Teemu Maarela

Esports & Ice Hockey Specialist


Teemu is an enthusiastic Finn who spent his childhood around ice hockey and video games, and he has 10+ years of experience with sports betting industry. Teemu specialises in analysing esports and ice hockey games. He contributes to website in English, writing about his two passions - ice hockey and esports.
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