10 months ago - 14 minute read

What type of bettor are you?

You’ve probably all seen those adverts for a high-street betting brand asking if you’re a thinker or a risk-taker and wanted to put your foot through the TV screen, but there is a lot to be said for asking yourself the question. We’re not all created the same and sticking to a betting style that suits you will help you win more and help you cope with the good and bad luck that inevitably comes your way. So how do you do it?

Before we get started let’s make one thing very clear. There is no difference in finding value regardless of the types of bets you are placing. If you’re betting 1.1 or 10.0 the decision is the same, is the price wrong? Seasoned gamblers will bet a 1.5 shot as happily as a 15.0 shot if there is sufficient discrepancy between the implied probability and their predicted probability.

But while you may always make value bets regardless of the odds, you won’t win with the same frequency betting bigger priced chances. A genuine 5.0 chance will lose four times out of five, while a genuine 1.25 chance will win four times out of five. This means far more losing days than winning ones backing the bigger odds chances. And while your bankroll should be able to sustain this your temperament may not.

Managing Your Money

You can manage variance by using a fixed staking system so all winning bets return the same amount. For example a max bet may be 20 units at 2.0 or 2 units at 11.0. If this seems too crude then you can adopt the Kelly Criterion to make sure you’re maximising your value based on the probability of losing. But what’s more likely is your betting style, and personality, will lead you to predominantly favour a certain type of bet.

At the core of this is the ratio between risk and reward. As humans we make terrible risk/reward decisions all the time. Running a red light when late for work has very little reward but a huge potential downside risk, while the same could be said for crossing the road while traffic is moving. When betting not having a good risk/reward ratio will only lose you your money, but we should probably try and avoid this nonetheless.

If you are betting correctly your risk/reward ratio will always be slightly in your favour as you are risking slightly less than the potential long-term reward will bring. But not all bets are created equally. If you place all your bets at 2.0 then you need to be right slightly more than 50% of the time to be in profit long term. Your risk reward ratio is essentially 1:1. If you place all your bets on 21.0 (20/1) then your ratio is 1:20. You need to be right slightly more than once in every twenty times, or just over 5% of the time.

If you are betting even money shots you can afford to be wrong more often. If you are betting long-shots then a small adjustment in fortunes can make a massive difference to your short-term profits.

Risk More, Win More?

For the evens bettor a 55% win rate will net you 10 points profit for 100 bets of 1 unit every month. Let’s say you go on a bad run of luck, which happens to everyone, and you hit 40% winning bets for a month. Each losing bet at 2.0 will lose you 1 unit and each winning bet will net you 1 unit profit. At the end of the month you will be down 20 units. If your luck is reversed and you pick 70% of winners you would end up 40 units up for the month.

For the 20/1 bettor it all looks a bit different. Let’s say on average you win 5.25% of your bets for a similar long-term average of 10.25 units per month. As it’s impossible to win a quarter of a bet so we need to say you win 21 bets for every 400 you place. That means every four months you win £420 (21 x £20) and lose £379 (379 x £1) for a total win of £41 or £10.25 per month.

As you can see this means you can go a long, long time without having any winners. It’s quite possible to go two months or more without getting any returns on your bets. This is nothing to worry about, but it’s hard to retain confidence in your decisions and carefully analyse each and every opportunity when your last 300 bets haven’t returned a single winner. For the evens bettor it’s unlikely you will ever reach that point.

Hot and Cold Streaks

If you adjust that win rate by roughly the same proportions as with the evens better to 7% for a hot streak and 4% for a cold streak then the results look like this. Hot streak +£188 over four months (+£47 per month) cold streak -£64 over four months (-£16 a month). The average numbers are the same, but the distribution is different.

Another key point is it doesn’t take many mistakes to make a huge difference with higher priced bets. Missing just one good bet can turn things south. The difference between a 5% win rate and a 4% win rate over 400 bets is just 4 losing bets. It’s not a lot is it? Mathematically there is no real difference to the two styles of betting. One is not more risky than the other. But long-shot betting has a lot less margin of error.

Successfully betting long shots relies on a far sharper knowledge of the sport you are betting on. In most major sports the short-priced favourites will usually be very close to their true price – with long-term results closely mirroring the implied probabilities in the market. The same is not always true of longer-odds bets. You need to be able to recognise the difference between an under priced and overpriced long-shot and that takes experience.

Coping with Losses

While long-term this will all even out if your win rates remain the same long-term, that high-risk high-reward strategy suits some personalities far more than others. Veteran gambler Neil Channing adopted a very different style during one period of his long betting career. “Back in the early 2000s I switched from having 2-3 big bets on short priced horses to having a dozen bets on average prices of 8/1 or more. That was a big change for me and I would have really long losing runs. I could go without having a winner for several days in a row,” Channing says. But he says it taught him a hugely valuable lesson about variance and dealing with losing runs.

Bankroll management is obviously vital for surviving the losing streaks, but it takes a certain mentality to keep on top of the game when things seem to be going against you. It’s one thing to recognise probability in theory and know that at some point if you keep making good decisions you will be back in profit and dealing with it in reality. Knowing you are only supposed to win one bet in 10 might sound easy but it can really wear on your good humour, particularly if you’re betting outside your bankroll.

While the attraction of hitting a bundle of 10/1 shots is obviously attractive, unless you have nerves of steel and an iron constitution you may be better off considering a more prosaic approach to betting. So take a look at our four main betting styles and see which one might suit you best. It could be the best betting decision you ever make.

What Sort of Bettor Are you?

#1 The Thinker

  • You love one sport – watch more than 4 hours a week on average
  • You have specialised knowledge
  • You have a medium tolerance for risk
  • You get frustrated at long losing streaks

You should be a handicap specialist

Betting on handicaps is perfectly suited to bettors with a deep knowledge of the sport they are betting on and a fairly low risk tolerance. Handicaps are the purest betting contest with it coming down to your judgement over the odds setters, and with odds in the 1.9-2.0 range they provide a fairly low variance way to grind out a profit. Asian handicaps in particular offer a perfect option for football fans by taking out the draw as a result.

#2 The Generalist

  • You are a fan of sport generally
  • You like reading widely, listen to podcasts or watch vlogs
  • You have a low risk-tolerance
  • You hate hate losing

You should be a short-priced value hunter

Focusing on value bets in the 2.0 and under range is harder than it sounds, but can be hugely profitable. Your wide sporting knowledge and ability to take in information from a range of sources and tipsters means you should be able to spot edges others might miss, and your ability to be relatively neutral means you can see when a price has moved too far in one direction.

#3 Mr Average

  • You are a fan of sport generally
  • You like reading widely, listen to podcasts or watch vlogs
  • You have a medium risk tolerance
  • You get frustrated at long losing streaks

You should be a mid-priced value hunter

The range of 2.0-7.0 is often where the most value can be found in sports betting, especially if you can focus on early or late prices to catch the maximum benefit from movements. You are not looking to be an expert on every sport, but to look for value opportunities that exist because of pricing errors, overreactions in the market or any other edge you can find. There is more variance here so expect some decent sized losing streaks but you’re calm enough to deal with them.

#4 The Punter

The Punter

  • You primarily love one sport – watch more than 4 hours a week on average
  • You have a high risk-tolerance
  • You have a medium to large bankroll
  • You love winning more than you hate losing

You should be a long-shot sharpshooter

If you’ve got the in-depth knowledge to know a big price from a big donkey and the temperament to deal with lengthy losing streaks without losing confidence then this is for you. Focusing on finding value at the bigger prices is what some of the best-known tipsters do but it takes balls of steel and the patience of a saint. Long losing streaks are not just possible but likely, but nothing really beats the feeling of hitting a 40/1 winner does it?