An odds comparison service allows the punter quickly and easily to compare prices across a wide range of bookmakers without actually having to visit each and every bookmaker individually until he is ready to place his bet, helping him find the best available price. An odds comparison service is probably the single most important tool a punter can use to maximise the chances of profitability from his sports betting. Without it, you are potentially handicapping yourself with as much as a 10% extra disadvantage. Given that it is so difficult to take money off the bookmakers over the long term, such an additional handicap can potentially mean the difference between profit and loss, even for a skilful forecaster. Regular punters, and indeed all tipsters, are well aware of the benefits of using odds comparisons. From the punter’s perspective, there might sometimes be one or two explanations for taking something shorter than the best betting price. Possibly one might choose an inferior price with a bookmaker that will take a larger stake. Sometimes we might even be forced to take it if our stakes have already been limited with the top priced bookmaker. Such practical difficulties thankfully only arise because of previous successes we have had and profits we have made. Generally speaking, however, it’s the best price that we want.
The best online odds comparisons today include Oddsportal.com, Oddschecker.com, Bestbetting.com and Betbrain.com. Oddsportal is without a doubt a tipster’s preferred choice. It has the widest coverage of bookmakers, betting markets and sports (only golf is currently missing), it publishes its comparisons in an easy-to-use manner, it allows the user to immediately see what theoretical value he is getting in his betting price, and it is free. Punters can view an odds summary of a large number of matches on one page, showing either the average betting price or the top betting price, depending on the user’s preferences, and the number of bookmakers used to calculate those figures. For an individual betting market the lines for every bookmaker are accompanied by a measure of their overround, called the ‘Payout’. This is effectively the inverse of the overround, and describes the maximum possible return a punter could achieve were he to bet on all possible outcomes at the correct stakes. Oddsportal then goes on to calculate the average payout, and the maximum payout if betting the best available prices. The table below shows an example, taken from France v England in Euro 2012 on the 11th June 2012.
Such a feature is incredibly useful, since we can immediately see how much theoretical value we are getting in our betting price. Of course, the value of the payout, like the overround, only provides a hypothetical measure of our expected return, clearly not whether the bet will win or lose, nor indeed even an expectation of returns over the longer term. That would only be possible if we could be sure that the betting market was fully efficient, that is to say properly reflecting the “true” chances of each possible outcome as estimated by all available information about those possibilities. [We’ll learn more about market efficiency in the lesson on the favourite–longshot bias.]
For this particular example, If we bet £30.30 on Betvictor’s 3.30 for England, £31.25 on Betfred’s 3.20 for the draw and £40.00 on William Hill’s 2.50 for France – a total of £101.55 – we will return £100.00 no matter what the result, equivalent to a loss on turnover of 1.53% (that is 1.55 divided by 101.55 or 100% take away 98.47%). Sometimes the highest payout percentage actually rises above 100%, and where this happens this naturally creates the opportunity to bet all possible outcomes and make a small profit no matter what the result. Such an opportunity is called an arbitrage and we’ll look at these in depth in the next lesson.
Of course, being able to bet on the best available price requires the punter to have a large number of active online betting accounts. There are over 100 online sports bookmakers operating today; having an account with each one would potentially be a logistical nightmare, not to mention an expensive one, although it is not necessary to have every account funded all of the time. More practically, perhaps 20 or 30 accounts with the best and most reliable brands would be appropriate, choosing those which have reputations for the best prices, the best customer service, cheapest methods for funding and withdrawing money and the most favourable treatment of winning customers.