In the match odds market you'll find the highest levels of liquidity for any football market on Betfair. Because of the high volumes matched many people believe that it's hard to gain an edge or an advantage and that because the movements in prices are so small due to the volumes involved that trading techniques applied to more volatile markets don't work as well. The first thing you need to understand to be profitable playing in this market is what the numbers are telling you and how you can extract some value and ultimately win from them.
Understanding the prices
Take, for example, the toss of a coin. There are only two possible outcomes and they both have an equal chance of occurring. Therefore, the true odds of the coin landing on a head or a tail is 2.0 regardless of how many times you toss it. If five heads have landed in a row, it makes no difference. The odds are always the same - 50-50, or in betting terms 2.0 or 'even money'.
However, in sports betting prices are not as easy to determine as they are in fixed odds-style betting. What you need to remember is that the odds displayed in the Match Odds market are simply an indication of the respective probabilities of the outcomes. If a team is available to back or lay at 2.0 the market is telling you that team has a 50% chance of winning or losing the game, because to convert decimal prices to percentage chance you simply divide the odds by 100 (e.g. 100/2.0 = 50% : 100/3.0 = 33.33%). As a trader/punter it is then down to you to decide if, based on your research and analysis, whether that price represents value or not.
A good way to determine if you have managed to achieve a value bet is to look at the closing prices in the Betfair Match Odds market. The Betfair prices gain accuracy from the volume of bets placed in the exchange, in mathematical and statistical terms this is often referred to as the 'wisdom of crowds'. The idea being that if you can get sufficient liquidity in the market it will move to its most efficient position and therefore close to the true odds. Generally the more liquid the market, the more you can trust the closing prices.
Once you have an understanding of what the prices mean there are then two fundamental approaches to succeeding in this market - pre-match or in-play. Both require very different techniques and strategies. Let's look at pre-match first.
When I enter the market pre-match my objective is simply to 'beat the book' at the start of the event. In order to do this, I will place orders or take prices in Betfair ONLY at prices I have calculated (called a 'tissue') which I believe will offer me a good chance of producing a profitable position before kickoff. Don't be afraid to change your tissue if further information becomes available before the event starts - players injured/rested, formation changes, managerial changes - these and many other things can affect a team's chances and therefore you must later your tissue price accordingly.
One thing you shouldn't change though is your maximum liability, set this to something you are comfortable working with, it doesn't matter what this figure is as long as you are comfortable with it. And remember, setting it too high will ultimately cause you to fail as you will react incorrectly to changes in the market.
Pre-Match: Don't be afraid to lay short priced favourites
You often find that sides with exceptional home form, such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, will often be over-backed initially (because backers think they are buying money) and then when the liquidity builds up and they settle back to their true price there is often an opportunity. Laying the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona at home, who both have a win rate of over 80% win rates seems madness at first glance, but remember you're not saying they aren't going to win the game, you are just attempting to put yourself in a great trading position before the game starts. Here are two examples of how the market has evened out pre-match after initial over-backing of strong home teams by punters:
Taking the Profit
At this stage of course, we still haven't achieved any profit from the event but what happens next is really down to your trading style and attitude to risk. Because, once you have been successful at beating the book a whole new set of in-play opportunities arise. You can remove the liability, you can use price leveraging techniques to reduce your liability and buy some time in the game, or if you believe the risk in obtaining a higher profit than what is currently on offer, simply Cash Out using the yellow Cash Out button and hedge the profit across all possible outcomes ensuring a successful trading result before moving onto the next game. These and many other opportunities are all available simply because you have managed to obtain value from the market and beat the book.
Personally, I use a variety of these techniques depending on what my closing position is and my research of the game in question. Ultimately though, consistently beating the closing Match Odds prices and betting with a mathematical edge in your favour is a big step on the way to winning long term in this market.
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