Major sporting events have a habit of producing a curious effect on fans.
It’s something I’ve noticed during various big summer championships, but it is not just limited to them. You can sometimes also see it during the ordinary football season.
I’m referring to the concept of fan betting, when normally rational people abandon their usual judgement and follow their allegiance when making betting decisions… With real money!
Fans Who Bet….
I have a couple of good male friends who are big supporters of Manchester City. They very kindly recently invited me to the game City were playing at the end of last season against Manchester United, which was a crucial match with the potential to decide who would go on to win the Premier league title. As it turned out, it triggered a significant swing in end of season fortunes, with City of course going on to win the league, to my friends’ delight.
Well, I’m sure you can imagine my friends were incredibly nervous before the big match. But one of them, Steven, suddenly decided to pay dear old William Hill a visit before the game in order to (somehow!) show his support.
Now I find it hard to imagine a more illogical way to demonstrate that you are supporting your team than this.
After all, the fans and management of the club don’t know you’ve placed that bet. It’s not like cheering them on from the stands is it?! How, pray tell, is this misguided demonstration of one’s allegiance actually supposed to work?
When I raised this point with my friend, he merely continued to remain both vague and adamant that his was a valid way of expressing his support. Indeed, he seemed to think that my approach to betting was somehow clinical and inappropriate in the circumstances. We were watching the game seated amongst the City fans, and in his view, it would therefore be almost morally wrong to put a bet on the draw (which was the result I expected), or, heaven forbid, on an United win.
Of course, all of his bets were placed on various outcomes that involved a City victory. Worse still, he placed his bets in a small booth in the home fans’ end of the stadium where William Hill were (unsurprisingly) offering truly lousy prices. Their shabby little concession seemed permanently surrounded by a small crowd in the run-up to kick-off, and, in my view, amounted to little more than blatant exploitation of City fans desperate to show their allegiance in the most misplaced way. I couldn’t help wondering if there was also another little desk in the away end offering prices to United fans that were equally biased in the other direction.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, Steven then started betting against himself. He placed a whole series of correct match score bets on different potential outcomes, all of which of course involved a City victory. Well, City did indeed go on to win, so he got that bit right, but he genuinely believed he’d ‘won’ when the 1-0 scoreline – which was one of half a dozen predictions that he’d made – came up. In fact, I seem to remember that overall he finished dead level, with the winnings from the one nil result paying for all the other losing bets. When I pointed out that the only thing he’d actually done was guarantee that most of his bets would lose, he simply couldn’t see the logic. But when you place mutually exclusive bets, all you’re doing is giving the bookie a massive edge, because all but one of them must go his way.
This isn’t intelligent betting, nor is it supporting your team. This is mug punting.
So Why The Cautionary Tale?
I mention it today because I sense a resurgence of this phenomenon may be in the offing this weekend. After a start to the 2012 European Championships during which English hopes have been commendably restrained, I feel we may now see an upsurge in patriotic fervour that bears no resemblance to the team’s actual chances of going on to win the tournament.
My advice therefore is, if you support a particular team such as England, keep your wallet in your pocket and simply enjoy the match. Betting is a serious business – well, it is if you actually want to succeed at it – but your judgement cannot possibly remain impartial when you’re wearing a particular team’s colours.
And if you don’t believe that hard-headed punters can be affected by their lifelong allegiance, watch this display of misplaced bravado by Fred Done, the founder of BetFred, and a lifelong Manchester United supporter…
Exploiting Patriotic Bookies!
A further idea is to try to spot biases in the odds offered by patriotic bookies. After all, any bookmaker’s prices are inevitably representative of the bets that they’ve taken from their own customers, so patriotic bias should not surprise us. This indeed is how I was able to secure very attractive odds on France in the game against Sweden yesterday, which led to a successful arb worth £15 when Sweden went on to win….
For who was the bookie who gave me such a generous price? Nordicbet, a Scandinavian outfit who unsurprisingly didn’t give the French much hope against the mighty Swedes!
So I’m £15 up, and looking forward to seeing how England perform against the Italians. But I can assure you, I won’t be betting on an English victory.
Certainly not with an English bookmaker anyway!