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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hedge-hunter: Why it can Pay to be Prudent

As a man who regularly enjoys gambling on horse racing, I like to be fairly limited in my stakes.  It is easy to get carried away with the riches of the National Hunt calendar at this time of year and the schedule certainly gives us betting people a regular opportunity to have a wager.  So it is wise to be selective in your forays into the markets and perhaps use the opportunity to indulge in a Lucky 15 to prolong your enjoyment and limit your exposure.   My attention has recently been drawn to Betfred’s mouth-watering offer of trebling the odds on your sole winning bet if your multiple yields just the one victor, so I find that added insurance a tempting attraction.  

Despite often putting a great deal of research into my horse selections prior to putting down my punt, however, I seem to find myself haemorrhaging overall profit via impulsive itches to get stuck into in-play football matches, often flicking Sky Sports on and taking a view on the likelihood of the game to reward its viewers with a few goals.  Ray Winstone is a convincing actor (you only have to watch his portrayal of Henry VIII to know that), and the seductive cockney growl he employs on Bet365’s television commercials is not lost on me.

This is where money can easily be lost.  Odds on over / under 2.5 goals regularly teeter around the evens mark, so when I fancy a few onion-bag bulgers to go in, I will select Betfair’s over / under 3.5 goals market instead, and look for an opportunity to trade.

One such opportunity presented itself over the Christmas break.  Lean Liverpool, with a pacey, goal-hungry attack visited a bloated, too-much-turkey QPR who were down on their luck and seemingly devoid of desire to do anything about it.  The over 3.5 goals bet looked the play, so I got involved with a hefty wager, exposing myself to £250 worth of losses at a price of 3.0 (2/1).  

Luis Suarez duly delivered the early blow, breezing past QPR’s centre backs after just 10 minutes and opening proceedings with a slick goal.  By half time the scoreline was 0-3 to the away side.  QPR looked dead and buried, and Twitter was awash with criticism of the lack of fight, spirit and skill shown by the west London hoops.

But that’s how things stayed.  The result at the final whistle was the same as it was at the break: 0-3.  If I had staked my £250 on over 3.5 goals in a betting shop, I would have lost my money.  Instead I hedged my position on Betfair as the odds tilted in my favour.  Here’s a few pictures to tell the story:


OK – so the market rated the likelihood of this game rewarding us with more than three goals as a 33.3% chance.  I certainly thought it was more of a 50/50 shot so £250 went down prior to kick off, which was scheduled for a Sky Sports televised 4pm.  You can see the time at the top of this picture – after Liverpool went one up, the price on over 3.5 goals fell from 3.0 to 1.42 (a 70.4% chance).  I fancied Liverpool to press on and thrash QPR, but wanted to limit some of my losses, so I hit the lay button – effectively offering someone else to bet that there will be 3 goals or fewer.  You can see that I now stand to lose £100 (under) and win £381.20 (over).


Still with me?  Good.  A few minutes later, the controversial Uruguayan striker shot another dagger to the heart of QPR’s woefully inept defence.  At 0-2 it seemed almost inconceivable that this match wouldn’t be an absolute goalfest.  The market moved again:
Now the odds on more than 3.5 goals have shortened to just 1.11.  This is suggesting that there is a 90% probability of two more balls hitting the net before full-time.  The backers are out in force, thinking they’re buying money, and throwing cash at overs.  A £100 stake here would return £11 profit minus Betfair commission.

I decide to “exit” the market completely at this stage.  This gives me a free bet as my initial stake has now been returned and I either win (at best) or lose nothing (at worst).   There is only a hint of doubt that the goals won’t continue to fly in, but I’d rather not be risking anything if I don’t have to, and freeing up my £100 of remaining also exposure means I have funds available to bet on something else!  Frustratingly, Daniel Agger made it three to Liverpool after 28 minutes of play, so for a while I was thinking that I’d given up some much-desired profit.  As it eventually transpired, I needn’t have worried...
I use the iBetMate App on my iPhone, but for users of the official Betfair app, here’s what your screen would look like in this scenario.  They have this “Cash Out” feature on there which does the work for you.  At this point, hitting that big yellow button would mean that, whatever the outcome, I would win £346.72.

Greedily gorging myself over Christmas was not limited to the dinner table, though, and I still thought that Liverpool would get a fourth, hoping that maybe a half-time kick up the backside from ‘arry Redknapp might see QPR get one back.

So at half time, I made myself a cup of tea and had a little think before acting.  Rather than giving myself an opportunity to earn over £300 on either outcome, I laid a bit more of over 3.5 at around 1.2 and locked in a minimum of £190:
I’m sure you get the picture by now, and by way of balance I want to demonstrate that my trading on goals in football matches is not always this successful.  Discipline is key, and you should probably set yourself some profit targets before commencing your day’s work.  The following week, I had a similar strategy in the Southampton v Arsenal game, but didn’t execute the tactics with anywhere near as much effectiveness, resulting in a loss of £250.  I take some comfort in a good old fashioned wager though, and the £160.10 won on Suarez to score twice against QPR still feels better than the sensible hedging and trading of the goals market.  I guess while us gamblers might want to see ourselves as clever merchants of the multitude of markets available to us, deep down, we’re all seeking the thrill of a big win off a small stake!


  1. You are right. it is better to know a little bit more to avoid loosing your money and betting in those things that you will get more bang for your money.

    1. Thank you for your comments Per Head. Good luck with your punting