It is extraordinary to me how many commercial betting systems are available today.
I regularly get emails from readers asking whether I’ve tested Proven Money Maker X, or Super Hot Arbitrage System Y. And invariably I’ve never even heard of them.
All of which tends to produce in me an initial degree of scepticism, however open-minded I do try to remain. It’s just too darned easy to run up a website and start selling systems!
So what precisely IS a betting system?
I will argue till my face is blue that the most famous system of them all, Martingale, isn’t really a betting system at all. For, in my opinion, a system should contain two things as a minimum:
- an “edge” (the reason why the system is expected to work in the first place)
- a staking plan (which should ideally avoid aggressive loss recovery, and seek instead to manage your betting bank as efficiently as possible)
Martingale is really only a staking plan – and a particularly cavalier one at that. It is, thus, by my definition at least, only half a system.
Coming up with an edge
There is a temptation to think that a system must be based on some searing insight. And of course, if you have one, it helps!
But in fact, a more likely avenue is simply specialisation.
I know it probably feels an odd experience, but consider, just for a moment, having a bit of sympathy for your local bookie.
Because today’s sporting events come littered with markets – and there are limits to the amount of research any of them can do to get their pricing right.
Let’s take a random football match.
Tonight, in Italy’s Serie B, Juve Stabia take on Lanciano.
Now this isn’t a fixture to set my pulse racing, but, amazingly, Oddschecker lists no fewer than 184 different markets on this one game!
Seriously, how much money can the bookies realistically expect to take on the following markets on this second-tier league match?
- Will there be a goal in the first 15 minutes?
- Team To Score Third Goal (!)
- Highest Scoring Half For The Home Team
- Over/Under 0.5 Goals In The First Half
My guess is that some of these markets may not be bet on at all!
Or, if they are, we can be confident the turnover will be tiny in comparison to the mainstream opportunities (Match Odds, Correct Score).
What would you do as a bookmaker faced with such a mountain of markets?
Inevitably, you would come up with generic prices for the minor ones and focus instead on the high value stuff.
And of course, for ‘generic‘, we can read ‘poorly researched‘…
There are so many free statistics sites available today that you can easily analyse minor markets more thoroughly than the bookies do.
Reviewing these two sites, I notice that Juve Stabia are averaging 3.2 goals per game (scored and conceded), and that their two home games have produced plenty of first half goals (two in the first game and three in the second).
Lanciano have been involved in rather less eventful matches, but – for the sake of this example – I shall define my system in terms of the performance of the home side, on the (arguable) assumption that it is the home team’s approach to a game that dictates its general shape.
Betvictor’s price of 1.47 for there being at least one first half goal is the most generous available on the market, so – to make things interesting – I have had £2 on that particular outcome. 🙂
My system rules are therefore:
- average number of goals per game for the home team (scored and conceded) >= 3, and
- average number of first half goals per game for the home team (again, scored and conceded) >= 1.5.
I am looking only at current season data (so if this were a slightly more serious example, I might prefer to add a third rule stipulating the minimum number of games that should have already elapsed in the season).
And essentially, I will now trial my new system for 100 bets.
If I’m in profit at this point, I will push on to 200 (and if not, I will probably abandon the whole thing, and test another theory).
At 200 bets, I will assess my results, and if I’m still convinced I have a decent return, I may just have a system on my hands.
Otherwise I may tweak my rules and try again.
Only when I’m happy with my results will I think about staking.
I have an instinctive preference for level stakes, so for me, the only real question is, what percentage of my bank to venture on each bet?
As a guide, if my bets are priced, on average, below 1.75, I will usually consider 5% level stakes.
Above this, I would be tempted by 4% stakes for average odds of 2, and no more than 3% for anything riskier than this. When I’ve placed 1000 bets, I may reconsider.
I hope it’s becoming clear by now that the biggest factor in systems design is patience.
For the design process might seem, on first sight to be a pain – but in fact, it’s fun and free.
And, like Little Jack Horner, when you do finally land a plum, you will feel more satisfied than you could ever possibly be with a system purchased off the shelf.
Good luck with your systems design efforts … And feel free to let me know about any promising plums!