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Laying a book in a tennis tournament

General RSS / / 24 September 2007 / 1

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Scott's Spot - Scott talks us through the golden rules of laying an ante-post book on a tennis tournament

Tennis punters aren't treated to many chances in long-term antepost markets. Racing fans get their big races up to 12 months in advance and a swarm of other races in a shorter time-frame, while football and golf punters can have weeks or months to get involved in their big events.

There is an art to laying a book in any market - it comes down to timing, margin and anticipating what the market will do between now and the end of the event. There was an excellent thread recently highlighted in our InPlay newsletter discussing laying every player in a major golf tournament, read it here.

Tennis, as you'll soon notice, is quite different. Having a draw full of knockout matches means the overall champion needs to defeat only seven opponents rather than the entire field. One player, such as Roger Federer, can dominate the market meaning you have to be careful about withdrawals and how to price up players based on which side of the draw they may be. With the advent of Winner with Federer markets, this adds a large safety net for layers - no longer can you get skinned when the 1.6 shot pulls out unexpectedly due to injury or fatigue.

When laying a book, the aim to is lay as many selections as possible at as low a price as possible. The longer the period before the event, the more margin you need to build in, to allow for various events - some players will run hot, others may have injury scares. When the players concerned at well down the market, then prices are independent of each other but if Djokovic or Nadal succumbed to an injury a few weeks before a Grand Slam event, the price of players around them in the rankings would shorten.

The first thing you need to be aware of is that bookmakers don't get green books very often. Before an event (race, match, tournament), they'd be in profit for every selection maybe once in every 1000 markets, unless they were laying off along the way. Bookies can't tell a punter that he can only have £23.17 on a selection so they could have a perfectly-framed book, nor can they tell someone to double their bet to smooth out their risk. Betfair traders have options - you set the risk you're prepared to take and which selections you are prepared to lay.

Bookmakers also focus on the head of the market. The vast majority of punters back the favourites. As you go further and further down the field, it becomes progressively harder to lay runners. Often the only time a bookmaker will lay a selection at a massive price is when the price is wrong. The plight of a layer on Betfair is different though - you're not restricted to the crowd of people in front of you like a racecourse bagman, nor the local patriotic residents for a betting shop. With an international customer base, punters from dozens of countries around the world will bet on each tournament. Few of these people will have access to every bookmaker in the world, so offering an attractive price rather than best price anywhere will often do. If you've tried laying prices in weaker markets before then you will have been amazed at some of the prices people will take. But realistically, focus on the guys at the top. In a men's Grand Slam market, probably only 30-40 players are going to trade below 1000 to be outright winner. You can't lay the others without a massive bank.

Timing is crucial. The earlier you get involved, the wider margins (poorer prices) you can offer. You're not going to get matched on all of them, that simply won't happen unless you are laying a red book. If your prices are reasonable, then expect to get quite a few matched. Other layers will come in and offer better prices above yours. Be patient, don't feel that you have to be top price on any or every player. Someone may come along and want £20 on a player but the liquidity is so thin that they have to go down as far as the third offer.

If a player is involved in a match in a lead-up event, expect someone to over-react and take 'any' price. In reality, a run of form in a weaker event doesn't mean a huge amount if the player is going to come up against far stronger opposition in the next tournament. Look to lay players in this situation as less price-sensitive punters over-react to what they see on screen.

If pricing up a tournament (e.g. Grand Slam) before the draw is available, price up everyone as if they are on the soft side of the draw, i.e. not in Federer's half. The difference could be 50/200 - obviously you don't want to be laying the high price and discover they land the charmed draw later on.

Laying an outright market is tennis is not easy. Practice on some lesser events first. Use the Payout function (click on the link on the My Bets slip) when laying to set your risk. Your liabilities don't add up with each player you lay - they offset against the stakes coming in. Only one player can win, so why should you have to risk £X times 20 players? With each player you lay, your biggest liability becomes less.


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  1. fornetti | 31 August 2008

    I do not believe this