Betting for a living is something people dream of. For most, it’s an unrealistic dream. For others, it’s hard but possible. In theory, it’s quite easy, just win more than you lose. The bookies have a built-in edge but with some knowledge and the ability to select which bets to take should be able to cherry-pick winnings bets. In practice, the bookies are very good and most markets are priced up correctly. This article is about betting but with a bias towards football/ soccer betting.
Beating the bookies?
It’s actually very easy in practice to beat the bookies, soft books anyway, these are the ones you will find on oddschecker, your Bet365, Skybet, William Hill, etc. This is quite different from betting for a living though. Once you start winning at the bookies, you will get restricted or just outright banned. Most clever bookies will just restrict you. Nowadays, online anyway, bookies make money from the casino and poker rooms, so it makes sense to restrict bets but keep the account open. For example, if you win too much at bet365 they will just restrict your stakes to 1% of an unrestricted account.
For example, on a typical market, they may accept a liability of £1000. So if that selection was 1.8, it would mean an average person would be able to bet £1250 on it for a £1000 potential profit. For someone that is limited at 1%, they’d be able to place just £12.50. For stuff like the Premiership, it will be higher so even restricted people might be able to get a couple of hundred on.
The easiest way to get restricted is arbitrage or matched betting. They are similar but not the same. They are profitable in the short term but you will get restricted pretty quickly. Its so obvious if you are consistently betting on markets where the bookie is an outlier.
The other way to get restricted is to actually win consistently. You can do this by skill or by following the market and betting when the bookie is slow to move their lines. Winning consistently is easier said than done unless you are taking advantage of slow prices.
Either way, betting at a soft book is a short-term thing. You will either lose or get restricted.
Where to bet?
So if regular bookies are going to limit you, where is the best place to bet? You have to use an exchange or Asian Bookie via a broker.
The main betting exchanges are Betfair, Betdaq and Smarkets. The main Asian bet brokers, are Sportmarket, Premium Tradings, Asianodds88 and Vodds. Exchanges are legal in the UK whereas you will get blocked from visiting most brokers from the UK.
Exchanges make their money from the commission on winning trades. Betfair have recently reduced their commission from 5% to 2% which is in line with other exchanges. If you trade, rather than bet, you can expect to pay a premium charge if you make too much. If you bet though, there is no premium charge.
Betbrokers if you can get an account, will allow you to bet on several Asian bookies and some exchanges. For example, Vodds, has several Asian bookies including Pinnacle as well as Betfair and Matchbook. Sportmarket has Matchbook, whereas as Asianodds88 and Premium Tradings just have the Asian Bookies which include Pinnacle. The handy thing is that sometimes bookies have better prices and higher limits than Betfair. The markets are offered are bigger too. Good luck being able to bet on Uganda Division 2 on Betfair but you will generally find those markets at the bet broker.
Asian Bookies are usually limited to just football/ soccer markets. If you are into horse racing or other sports, you will need to bet at the exchange.
This is the million-dollar question. If you are betting at the best prices, a lot of strategies will work due to sheer luck in the short term. If you take the best prices, you can easily get 1.98 on both sides of an Asian Handicap. Eventually, even a 2% edge will wear you down.
The main thing is to get the best price. The difference between 1.95 and 1.96 could be the difference between winning and losing long term. It might not seem much but even professional outfits like Tony Blooms Star Lizzard aim to make 1-3% so the 0.01 difference really makes a big difference.
Early, Pre or in running
Bets can be placed at many points before the event and during. Almost as soon as the Champions League fixtures come out, some bookies will price up immediately. The margins will be big and limits low. They do this to test the market. If they get it wrong, people will bet at the early prices and they will change.
As the event gets closer, the price tightens as more money gets placed. At kick-off, the odds are generally perfect, so you can know if you have been successful if you have beaten the closing line. If you can beat that consistently, you are likely to win long term.
In running, there can be much value. Bookies use mathematical models rather than actually watching the game. For big games, the traders may watch the game but the sheer number of markets makes it impossible for them to price up manually. You could gain an edge by simply watching the game.
Expected goals (xG) is something that some people feel is something that describes a game better than the result. For example, it can happen that team that performs better actually loses. They may get an early goal and shut up shop, winning 1-0. Modelling based on xG has given some professionals an edge. This has diminished in recent times but there still maybe an edge to be had there reading a game in terms of xG rather than raw shots.
Many bookies and live score sites provide live stats. They usually provide, goals (obviously), corners, shots on target, shots off target, attacks, dangerous attacks, pre odds, live odds, and many more. You can get a lot of these from bookie apps or other general soccer scores apps.
Some players are more important to a teams performance than others. High profile players can move lines, for example, Messi playing for Barcelona will be different to when he is not playing. A lower profile player might not move the odds but will affect the performance. If you follow a team closely, you will know better than the bookies who is important.
It is possible to bet for a living and its hard. Professional gamblers I have met have said its more like a job so don’t expect it to be a case of filling in a coupon on Saturday morning, collecting your winnings at 5pm and thats it.
Let me know in the comments if you have anything to add. I’ll update and credit any contributors.