Betting markets

How I find value in the market

In Dave Nevison’s book “A bloody good winner” he mentions that he often makes his own “tissue” (SP forecast) for races. (At least I think he did but having looked through the book again I can’t find it).  The benefit of doing this is to find the value, based on your own opinion, in a market. It’s an analytical approach to quickly identify which runners, based on your own assessment, have been over (or under) priced by layers.

This is more difficult in today’s betting environment where markets are well established before the day of the race due to exchanges and more ante-post or “five day stage” markets. I understand that producing your own tissue won't be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s time consuming and often involves a lot of work for no reward (particularly when the market agrees with your own tissue.

[If you are already aware of how a market is formed I suggest you skip the next section as it may come across as condescending.]

Basically, the prices shown as fractions (e.g. 9/4, 7/4) represent percentages. In order to work out the %, divide the bottom number by the top number plus 1. e.g.

2/1 (Decimal: 3.0) = 1 divided by (2(+1))  = 0.333 (33.33%)

7/4 (Decimal: 2.75) = 1 divided by (2.75)  = 0.363 (36.3%)

The combined odds of a layers ‘book’ must total over 100%. Typically the total might be 110% meaning the book is over-round by 10%, the 10% being the bookmaker’s margin the objective being that theoretically the bookmaker will show a profit whichever horse wins. If the total odds of a market total less than 100% then the book is over-broke meaning you could back every horse in the race and show a profit whoever wins. Obviously, layers can’t allow their prices to be over-broke as they would quickly go bust. However, there are occasions where this happens, usually when the markets are particularly competitive such as the Cheltenham festival.  The Supreme Novices Hurdle on day one of the Cheltenham festival is probably the most competitive race market of the year as the bookmakers want to lure punters in to hopefully gain their custom for the week and the 2017 renewal was priced-up as follows:

Ballyandy                                               4/1       20.0%

Beyond Conceit                                   20/1       4.8%

Bunk Off Early                                     15/2       11.8%

Capital Force                                      100/1       1.0%

Cilaos Emery                                        22/1       4.3%

Crack Mome                                        12/1       7.7%

Elgin                                                      33/1       2.9%

Glaring                                                  80/1       1.2%

High Bridge                                         18/1        5.3%

Labaik                                                   50/1       2.0%

Magna Cartor                                    250/1       0.4%

Melon                                                     4/1      20.0%

Pingshou                                              50/1       2.0%

River Wylde                                          9/1      10.0%


The % total is 93.4% - meaning that if you backed all of the runners proportionately at £1 per % point (e.g. £20 Ballyandy, £4.80 Beyond Conceit, £11.80 Bunk Off Early etc (you’ll  get the drift) including 40p on Magna Cartor!) it would cost £93.40 but you would have a return of £100 whatever the outcome. £20 on Labaik at 4/1 returned £100 – n.b. 40p on Magna Cartor at 250/1 would have also retuned £100 had it won. The SP’s returned at  121.3% giving on-course layers a profit margin of 21.3%. None of the other races on the card were over-broke on morning odds, the handicaps wouldn’t be, but the Arkle was only 103.5% (SP: 133.6%) and the Champion Hurdle was 100.2% (SP: 118.5%). Although you couldn’t guarantee a win on these races it highlights an enormous opportunity for exchange punters to “trade” as they were virtually guaranteed to be able to lay every runner at lower odds than the prices they could backed them at in the morning of the race (assuming they have unrestricted access to the best morning prices). Incidentally the Gold Cup on the Friday of the festival was so competitive that the layer’s morning prices were 95% (SP: 120%).


So, having given a background to how markets are formed I will explain what I do to form my own tissue. I start off with the odds based on probability. In a four-runner race, mathematically (not allowing for any other factors that affect a horses chance of winning) each runner has a one in four chance of winning, three-to-one against (1 divided by 4 = 25%). I start by pricing up each runner at 3/1 and then adjust the odds based on my own opinion. I try to avoid looking at any markets or trade SP forecasts at this stage so as not to influence my own opinion. Thwe following is an actual example of my approach:


32 Red Casino Maiden Stakes (Class 4) 3-y-o (Newcastle - 17th February 2017)

                                                          My tissue            BOA*

BOWBAN                                             3/1                         5/1

ELITE ICON                                          33/1                     100/1

EXCEL AGAIN                                      7/2                          3/1

REDARNIA                                        100/1                     250/1

RIVER WARRIOR                               33/1                      200/1

SAXON FLAMES                                   3/1                         9/4

SPIRIT OF HAYTON                             3/1                         9/4

CORAL PRINCESS                              50/1                       50/1


* BOA = ("best odds available" at morning prices)


My first impression was that it's a straightforward maiden that I'd narrowed down to four with a decent chance of winning so I had them all at around 3/1. I had a slight preference for Bowban and when I saw the market I was surprised that Saxon Flames and Spirit Of Hayton were 9/4 joint-favs with combined odds of over 60% (13/8 ON) I decided that Bowban was now a decent each-way bet at 5/1 (at a fifth the odds I would get my money back, including the win stake, if it only placed). I also backed Redarna to small stakes at massive odds on Betfair win and place markets as I thought that too was over-priced. The race result is irrelevant as it is just an example (but if I was reading I would want to know the outcome so here goes):


1st           Excel Again 4/1

2nd          Bowban 9/4 JF

3rd           Spirit Of Hayton 9/4JF


So, I only got my money back, apart from the few quid I threw at Redarna (4th 200/1) but my opinion was correct and I would be happy to have 5/1 on a 9/4 joint fav any day of the week which is the point I’m making regarding searching for value in markets. Before you think I’ve picked an example that shows my tissue in a favourable light compared to the layer’s odds compilers, a footnote to the race is that Saxon Flames (5/2) broke down (sadly fatally injured) when disputing second place (and I thought would have beaten Bowban). So I didn’t get it completely right.

By the way, my prices are only a guide and my book is to around 100% it doesn't matter if it is over-broke as I'm not laying my prices. I rarely lay runners even if they are shorter than my tissue. I may not want to back them for one reason or another but it doesn't mean I would lay it either. It may be too short in my opinion but it doesn't mean it not the most likely winner. I only lay the occassional odds-on runners that I think should be odds against.



A good example of what I consider to be value is: in 2015 the BHA introduced the Jump racing 'Triple Crown' bonus of the Betfair Chase, King George & Cheltenham Gold Cup. Bookmakers were quick to offer prices and while most were quoting around 16/1 named horses such as Don Cossack or Vautour, Stan James went 40/1 "any horse" this was an obvious error by the layers and I was quick to take advantage; how could the price possibly be 16/1 for a specific horse or 40/1 any horse (including Don Cossack etc)? [footnote: Cue Card's fall at Cheltenham meant I did not collect from Stan James].







Latest results



"... no reason whatsoever to take on Circus Maximus (10/11) who looks sure to build on decent 2-y-o form with a step up to middle-distances [won 5/4]. Lincoln Park showed a spark of return to form last time out and can make all from a good draw  – 1 point win @ 6/1 [R4] WON 7/2


"In the first, the Lily Agnes for 2-y-o, it does appear that the draw hasn’t been kind to those with arguably the best form – Show Me Show Me and Electric Ladyland - with the exception of Great Dame who has trap 3 and got away well when winning last time out and she has a five stall advantage over the favourite – 1 point win @ 9/2"  WON 7/2 


"Sucellus is odds-on based on AW form and is worth opposing on fast ground with Laafy who looks sure to show improvement stepped up in trip – 1 point win @ 5/1"  WON 7/2


"I do think that Making Miracles should be fav ahead of stable companion Lucky Deal. Highly tried in the past, he ran well behind another stable companion last weekend and can reverse Chelmsford form back on turf – 1 point win @ 100/30"  WON 11/10


"Soto Sizzler was progressive last season when winning a class 2 at Goodwood off of 79 but he then failed to handle heavy ground at Haydock which may have taken its toll on him when disappointing in his final start of the season. He was entitled to need his first run this campaign when running a very encouraging race in the Rosebery Handicap which is looking decent form and he handily got dropped a 1lb. Having won at Goodwood I’d be confident of him handling Epsom’s undulations and I expect a big run. I didn’t expect him to be 100/30 fav in a competitive looking Great Metopolitan. One who may have been under-estimated in the market is Eddystone Rock, on the face of it he’s completely exposed nut he only went up 3lb for winning first time out and on the best of his form and likely to have ideal conditions"

Soto Sizzler – 1 point win @ 7/2  WON 11/4

Eddystone Rock - 1/2 point @ 15/2  2nd 6/1


"Just That Lord (Epsom) looks too big to me at 13/2 and has tempted me in. There was little between a few of these over CD in the Dash on Derby day last year but Just That Lord should be marked up finishing third from trap 1 when there was a clear advantage in a high draw. He re-opposes Dark Shot on slightly worse terms before Theodore Ladd’s 5lb claim but at the prices he’s worth taking a chance - 1 point win @ 13/2"   WON 5/1


"In the Windsor finale I like the look of Lethal Missile who has a progressive profile and has already run well this season and I expect the step-up to a mile to bring further improvement – 1 point win @ 5/2 [rule 4]"   WON 5/4


"Gasta has slipped to a mark of 72 after spending the early part of here career highly tried in pattern races. She ran an encouraging comeback last week when second and has a good chance of going one better here. I would have preferred a stiffer track but she looks the bet with her stable having started the season in good form – 1 point win @ 7/2"   WON 6/1


"Petrus was a decent 2-y-o just short of top class (4½ lengths behind Roaring Lion earned him an RPR of 102). He ran well enough as a 3-y-o without winning, particularly when not disgraced in the Britannia. He’s been gelded during the winter and returns on a handy mark of 91 and looks to have been prepared for the race – 1 point win @ 8/1"   WON 7/1


"There’s several in with a shout in a class 5 1m handicap at Newcastle but I expected Elixsoft to be among the market leaders. She may be at the top end of her optimum handicap mark but she’s in form, acts on the track and the form of her second last time out has been franked - 1point win @ 8/1"  WON 5/1


Selections are proofed to RACING INDEX but not all each-way bets are proofed as each-way. NB: the results are reported at SP/BSP not at the prices advised.


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