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Value within the “Outright Winner” market in golf betting

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The “Outright Winner” market in golf winner is exactly as it sounds. You are betting on your selection to win a given tournament. This sounds simple enough, right?! If only. You can choose to bet ‘win only’ or ‘each way’. ‘Win only’ means your whole stake is placed on that player finishing 1st. If the golfer finishes 2nd, 3rd or anywhere else your return as a punter will be zero. If, however, you choose to bet ‘each way’, half your stake will be on the player finishing 1st and half the stake will be on the player finishing in a “place”. A place for the purpose of this article will be a place in the top 5. Most firms will usually offer 1/4 odds of the “win only” price for this place. Hopefully you are still with me – I will highlight this in two examples.

Example A – betting ‘win only’

Stephen Gallacher is 40/1 to win a tournament. I bet £10 win only on Gallacher.

Gallacher wins: Return = £410

Gallacher doesn’t win: Return = £0

 

Example B – betting ‘each way’

Stephen Gallacher is 40/1 to win a tournament. I bet £5 each way on Gallacher.

Gallacher wins: Return = £205 + £55 = £260    (£5 on the win only price + £5 on the top 5 price(1/4 odds))

Gallacher finishes 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th: Return = £55 (Loss of £5 on the win only but £5 on the top 5 price)

Gallacher finishes 6th or worse: Return = £0

 

Hopefully this has cleared up any confusion that you may have. I appreciate that if you have been betting on golf for a while, this will not be new and I apologise for this but I feel that I need to make sure we are all on the same page before continuing. For this article, I am not going to discuss the merits of each way betting or similar (that will come later in the week). Today, the discussion will centre on picking worthwhile betting opportunities in the “outright winner” market. Throughout this blog, there is an underlying assumption that you will be betting each way on every selection.

 

VALUE

Anybody that has had a few bets before had heard this term. This straight forward, 5 letter word that we are all seeking. Does anybody actually ever think about what it means though? In the most simple of terms, value (within betting) is finding a price that the bookmakers are offering that is unfairly portraying that selection’s true chances. If something will win 1 in every 10 times but the price being offered is 20/1…this is value. Incidentally, anything bigger than 9/1 is value but you must account for your own personal mistakes so I’d suggest anything higher than 12/1 is value in this instance.

While we’re on this subject, we will discuss what the odds actually mean. If a bookmaker says the price is 20/1. They believe this selection will win 1 in 21 times ie. he/she has a 4.76% of winning. If you know the player has a 10% chance of winning, you have found value. If, however, you thought the selection had a 5% chance of winning (better than the 4.76 being offered) have you still found value? In a perfect world, yes; we do not live in a perfect world though! Nobody can correctly ascertain the probability of winning perfectly all the time. This is where “accounting for personal mistakes” comes into play. I would suggest that human error can be within the range of 25% of your predicted probability.

Accounting for human error (HE)

That previous statement is a tad difficult to put into words so we’ll use odds and probabilities to demonstrate. If you believe there is a 10% probability…I suggest that “human error” dictates the true probability lies between 7.5% and 12.5% (25% of the original 10% prediction added and taken away). This means you would anticipate a price between 12.3/1 and 7/1. If we were rounding these prices to some that typically get offered…you’d expect to see between 7/1 and 12/1 from the bookmakers. Since you priced the selection at 9/1 in your head, this would seem correct. An example at bigger prices…let’s say you believe a player has 1% chance of winning. “Human error” dictates the true probability lies between 0.75% and 1.25%. The prices here would be between 132.33/1 and 79/1 i.e. 80/1 and 125/1. You originally believed the price should be 99/1 so again this fits quite nicely.

Right…we know what value is, we know what odds mean and we have discussed the addition of human error but what on Earth do we do from here?! This is far easier than you may first think. Once you have a price list for the players in the competition you are betting on, you sit and wait for bookmakers to compile their own price list and you compare. If the bookmakers’ prices are shorter than your proposed prices, you have no value and if they are longer, you have value. Let’s use an example to illustrate this. For simplicity, I will use 5 golfers and give them arbitrary prices.

Worked Example

Jordan Spieth         Your price: 16/1                                    HE range: 12/1 – 22/1                              Bookmaker’s price: 20/1

Hunter Mahan      Your price: 20/1                                   HE range: 16/1 – 28/1                               Bookmaker’s price: 28/1

Bubba Watson      Your price: 40/1                                  HE range: 30/1 – 50/1                               Bookmaker’s price: 55/1

Jim Furyk             Your price: 66/1                                   HE range: 50/1 – 90/1                                Bookmaker’s price: 50/1

Ryo Ishikawa       Your price: 100/1                                HE range: 80/1 – 140/1                              Bookmaker’s price: 200/1

 

Now, let’s examine these 5 options from a betting point of view. Out of the 5 selections, you have decided that Jordan Spieth is the most likely winner, does this mean you should bet on him? In this instance, absolutely not. I am a big advocate that betting on the most likely winner of a golf competition is the wrong way to go about things and we must bet on value selections. Jordan Spieth is not a value selection with the price being offered in the above example. Hunter Mahan is priced at the upper end of your HE range and may constitute some value…I would still suggest that this isn’t a bet though. Bubba Watson however is priced at 55/1 when you think he is 40/1. You think he has less than half the chance of Jordan Spieth of winning but this is the value selection. Bubba Watson is a definite bet. Jim Furyk is a complete no-go here. The price is right at the bottom end of your HE range and even below your proposed price. Lastly, Ishikawa is twice the price that you originally suggested he should be and he is above and out of your error range. Ishikawa is a bet for this competition.

After all of that, you are left with 2 betting propositions. It is imperative that you are strict and you have discipline. Hunter Mahan may tempt you but you have rules and you must stick to them. Likewise, Spieth would tempt you but the price being offered seems right and there is no value. You back Bubba Watson at 55/1 and Ryo Ishikawa at 200/1.

WHAT TO STAKE?

The next and final (for now) decision to make is what to stake on each selection. There are three main schools of thought in this regard. Most use level stakes (same stake on every selection), some say the more value, the bigger the bet and some work around potential returns. That would mean the price dictates the stake. The first opinion is pretty obvious, we’ll tackle the others now.

More value = bigger stake

Which then, out of Bubba at 55/1 and Ishikawa at 200/1, is bigger value?

To work this out, we go back to our original prices. Remember from before you had 40/1 and 100/1.

40/1 = 2.44% chance of winning vs 55/1 = 1.79%

100/1 = 0.99% chance of winning vs 200/1 = 0.5%

The first is a 26.64% difference between your price and the bookmaker’s price and the second is 49.5% difference. This means the second is the bigger value bet. You would stake nearly twice as much on Ryo Ishikawa in comparison to Bubba Watson. If you were betting £1 each way on Watson, you’d bet £2 each way on Ryo Ishikawa.

Stake governed by return

For this example, we will say we are after a return of roughly £500 from our bet should it be a winner. If we are betting each way on a 55/1 shot, this means we need to stake £7 each way on Watson (actual return = £495). Each way on 200/1 means we should stake £2 each way on Ishikawa (actual return = £504). Now, if one selection were to win and the other to place you would have more than £500 and if one or both placed you would win substantially less but that is the basics for our staking plan.

 

Where does that leave us?

You can see just how complicated it can be to bet on golf and to successfully find value. I cannot stress how important it is to be disciplined in what you do. Whatever system you employ, whether it be level stakes or level returns, be disciplined. You may decide that my 25% Human Error figure is out, you can use 10% or 50% or whatever but the figure that you do use is one you must be confident in. I am comfortable that I can get within that range pretty accurately and I have been golf betting for a while now. This figure will probably decrease as I get better at predicting outcomes and gain more confidence.

You may very well feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect of changing your whole outlook on betting on golf. I’m not suggesting this for a second. There are successful punters who bet and choose selections in a completely different way to me. I think that this identification of value can help everyone though. For people starting out in pricing their own selections, I would advise coming up with a shortlist of players for a given tournament. You may devise this list from current form, weather forecasts, tournament form, tee times and whatever else you usually look for when picking out your bets for the week. This will leave you with a shortened list of golfers and then price these selections up. This is a straight forward way to begin compiling your own prices and over time you can learn to price up far larger samples of players.

I re-iterate, you are looking for players whose price represents value…you are not looking for the player who you think is the most likely to win! Some will read this and think I’d rather back a 16/1 winner than a 200/1 loser. If this is you, you have missed the point of this piece. If the 200/1 loser should’ve been 50/1 and the 16/1 winner should’ve been 25/1 then you were correct to back the loser.

Another suggestion from my personal experience would be to record all your bets. Record your shortlist for each tournament, record the prices you think they should be and record the prices offered. I make no apologies for not delving into what factors affect my personal pricing of a golfer’s chances as this will hopefully be discussed in another blog. The point of this was to hopefully alert people to the notion of finding value and a way of gaining an edge over the odds compilers. Remember that you should always win – the odds compilers have to offer a price on every selection, you only bet on the ones you choose to!

About Author

An English scotsman studying mathematics. Love the golf, enjoy horse racing and I'm always looking for ways to get ahead of the bookmakers. I also write about the Formula One on here. Follow me on twitter @jk_mcd for a variety of opinions mostly centred on sports betting!

5 Comments

  1. Nice article Kyle. In golf betting purely for ‘value’ is an optimum approach to generate long-term profits but it’s also important to touch on the psychological impact of backing lots of potential losers in a row and how much discipline it takes. It’s also I believe NOT an optimum method to stake each-way in golf due to the nature of ‘ties’ which can actually see you end up losing money if a lot of people tie for the places. Much better ROI can be found to go WIN only long-term, perhaps adding an extra golfer into the mix which is a better use of the staking… PROVIDING your selection method is sound and you are CONSISTENT with your staking, which is another important factor.

  2. Pingback: Golf Betting "Win Only" vs "Each-Way" • SBB Columns

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