6 months ago - 10 minute read

Introduction To Bet Timing

You’ve found a great bet so you should bet it straight away right? Well not quite.

You’ve probably heard people say ‘timing is everything’ in a number of everyday situations, but this well-worn phrase applies best to the world of sports betting.

With markets ebbing and flowing under the weight of money, correctly judging the optimal moment to stick your money down can make a massive difference to your short- and long-term profits. The ability to accurately ‘read’ betting markets and anticipate price movements takes experience, knowledge and sometimes a good slice of fortune.

Some might say it’s more of an art than a science. For example, you might back a winner at 5.5, but if you’d just waited a little longer you could have taken odds of 6.0. We’ve all been there (gnashing our teeth).

If you bet £10 then your returns including your stake are £55 instead of £60. No big deal, you think. A winner’s a winner after all. But if you’re habitually betting selections at inferior odds then it can soon add up when your picks win. And if your usual stakes are £100 you’re talking about a £50 shortfall every time the price moves by 0.5 points against you.

The tipping point

If something has been tipped by multiple sources, it stands to reason its price will contract.

For instance, when Tom Segal, aka Pricewise in the Racing Post, tips horses in his column for Saturday’s racing you can bet your bottom dollar most, if not all, will shorten – and sometimes considerably. With him identifying bigger-priced value selections, it doesn’t take that many tens and twenties from recreational punters to put downward pressure on the odds.   

You might fancy a horse in the morning but if it’s a few tipsters’ NAP that day then before you know it the odds will probably be on the move. Seeing the gamble unfold, others jump on the bandwagon and the collapse snowballs. Suddenly the selection you wanted to back at 9.0 is now just 5.0.

In this situation you just have to be disciplined and make the smart decision to swerve the horse as 5.0 doesn’t represent value. Your timing was off and you didn’t anticipate the gamble, which eradicated pretty much all of the value on offer. Sure, it may win but you missed the boat.

On the flip side, though, odds of 5.0 could mean it now makes sense to place a lay bet, especially if you feel the price is far too short and a implied probability of 20% doesn’t accurately reflect the horse’s chance of winning. There comes a point when a selection’s odds have moved so far – long or short – that backers or layers will step in and cause a correction.

Every market has a bottom and at some stage, a selection’s odds will hit that bottom and either plateau out or rebound. Anticipating that point and timing a lay bet can prove to be tricky, which is why this scenario is referred to in financial trading circles as ‘catching a falling knife’.

Household names

One of the most obvious and frustrating trends is popularity. You’ll find that horses ridden by well-known jockeys will quite often shorten up, while fan favourites such as tennis’ Novak Djokovic or snooker’s Ronnie O’Sullivan or Liverpool in football will usually attract plenty of support.

Indeed, some bettors back certain big teams and sports stars purely on their reputation and past glories rather than recent form, statistical analysis and the calibre of the upcoming opponent. This is why layers (bettors accepting the bets) will tend to price them up a touch shorter than they ordinarily would because they know the money will arrive regardless.

Fresh from their Premier League success, Liverpool will be an exceptionally popular bet team heading into the new season.

It can pay to bet early and avoid the rush if you fancy a favourite to come out on top. This is a strategy to be used with caution as other factors such as team news, draws and weather can also have a big influence. But in general with fan favourites the earlier the better is a reasonable motto to adopt.

That said liquidity can be in short supply shortly after a market opens but with high-profile events like televised Premier League matches it doesn’t take long for the punters to flock in. One key reason for using Matchbook is the fact you can post offers. While you need to be realistic with the odds you’re offering or asking for, you’ll be surprised at what prices backers and layers will accept in early markets.

Many seem desperate to get a bet on and will rush into the market seemingly oblivious to the fact they have backed a team at a bad price. So with a well-timed and realistic lay you can secure some juicy value. You can either let the bet ride or later ‘green up’ for a guaranteed profit. Likewise, an audacious back request may get matched when there is a shortage of offers and liquidity.

Of course, anything can happen between now and kick off in terms of injuries and team news, while colossal volumes wagered in the Far East will influence betting market movements over here. That’s the risk you take.

A waiting game

The movement of markets as big bets come in means that at times you may decide that entering the market late is the best play. This can be especially true if you fancy the underdog and expect their odds to go walkabout before kick off as the money flows in for the favourite.

One of the more noticeable trends is the volume of money that comes in on football an hour before kick-off once the teams have announced. You can often see big unexpected swings away and it’s generally the case that it’s this hour when the price sharpens and most accurately begins to resemble the true probability. Keep an eye on the direction of trend in the first few minutes after teams are announced and if your selection appears to be lengthening then hold fire.

Horse racing often presents a very similar scenario in the minutes leading up to race time with well fancied horses often shortening up considerably. Again it’s a case of watching the trends and trying to spot a pattern, although price moves can often be sudden and turn a value bet into a non-betting opportunity. Generally with horse racing it’s better to be early or be late.

By this we mean wait until an event goes in play. For instance, you could decide to avoid backing a horse before its race because you know it prefers to be held up at the back of the field. That way, the odds may well drift in running to 3.5 from a starting price of 3.0. Similarly, you might decide against laying a 2.5-favourite until the in-play market fires up as he’ll likely front run and the odds will probably dip to around 2.2.

A watching brief

Whichever strategy you adopt, correctly timing your bets to maximise value is always easier said than done. You’re going to make mistakes, and even the most experienced bettors will regularly slip up trying to second-guess how a market will move.

Yet by observing how markets and certain teams’ odds behave you will begin to gauge the best time to enter a market. Because remember, if you’re consistently missing the bigger prices and backing selections after a gamble has occurred then it’s going to put a significant dent in your long-term ROI.

Betting isn’t just about finding winners, it’s about finding value. And learning to read and understand the ways markets move will make you far more money in the long run.