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].







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"I don’t understand the pricing-up at Wetherby, granted Kauto Riko won impressively last time out but he’s now 8lbs worse off with Beau Bay for a neck ‘defeat’ in March and  the favourite is worth taking on at 13/8 with Kerry Lee out-of-form - 1 point win @ 4/1"  WON 11/4


"Grey Mist may have got home by only a short head over CD last month but I strongly fancied the second that day and they pulled well clear of the third and may have been under-estimated - 1 point win @ 4/1"  WON 5/6


"I’m scratching my head as to why Elysees Palace gets in here only 3lbs higher than when winning a class 4 handicap over course and distance and is 6/4… I must be missing something - 1 point win @ 6/4"  WON 8/11


"Monsieur Le Coq a really impressive winning a novice hurdle easily from Chambard - who was strongly supported on the day and should be winning soon – I expected a bigger hike than 5lbs. The ground was heavy that day and Jane Williams’ gelding has to prove he can repeat the performance on better ground, in a higher grade and that 2m isn’t too sharp (a likely improver over a further) he’s worth a bet at 7/2"  WON 11/4


"Thunder Buddy put up a thoroughly encouraging fibresand debut and ought to be right in the mix here off of the same mark. That effort came after a 5-month break and, bred for fibresand, the gelding is expected to show further improvement"   WON 9/2


"Star Ascending [NAP] gets the vote now back on a competitive mark over CD he excels at and the form of his previous race looks decent"  3rd 25/1


"Knockgraffon kicked us off to a winning start last year and, off a lower mark, looks a decent price to repeat the feat – 1 point win @ 11/4"  WON 4/1


...CHRISTMAS 2018...


"... I’m always keen to forgive a bad run, partly because you can get a decent price next time out, so I’m keen to give Padleyourowncanoe [NAP] another chance after his Newbury disappointment. Now only 3lbs higher than when fourth in the Fred Winter and with Harry Kimber claiming a further 10lbs I expect him to be competitive. (14/1 each-way, BetVictor 12/1 4 places)"  WON 13/2


"Sir Egbert is potentially a vulnerable odds-on jolly; he won well last time out but his trainer was quoted as saying: "he's a heavy horse with bad knees and really needs testing ground" it doesn't look like it will be bad ground and Cesar Collonges is a bit of each-way value"  WON 7/1


"Lake View Lad may be a bit of an each-way steal at 11/2 and 1/4 odds with Bet365. I fully expected him to be fav and he was on early tissues but support for other has resulted in a bit of value"   WON 5/1


"Eternally Yours has a great chance of landing the mares handicap hurdle after her encouraging return to the track when just failing to land the spoils (11/8)"  WON 5/4


"Queenofhearts (NAP) looks over-priced to me at 11/4 – I had her down as the fav after an excellent second last time out at Chepstow, a race in which the 3rd, 4th and 5th have all came out an won on their next outing. Danse Idol sets the standard but the selection proved herself a decent mare by winning a prestigious mares NH flat race at Sandown last season and looks worth a bet."  WON 11/8 fav


...DECEMBER 2018...


"Showboating may be a 10-y-o but his form at the track is at least a stone better than on any other surface. After some moderate runs elsewhere his mark has slipped 17lbs lower than when contesting a class 3 at the track in May and he has to be worth a bet @ 10/1 each-way"   WON 13/2


"I can understand why Western Duke is the tissue fav for the penultimate race at Wolves but there’s enough doubts for me to oppose it with the lightly raced Aircraft Carrier who can reverse the form with Charlie D after being left with too much to do when they met last time out. 7/2 is a fair price"   WON 5/2


"Midnight Shadow has to be backed at 13/2 based on his heavy ground form against Mont Des Avaloirs on the card last year, the current fav Notwhatiam (3rd 9/1) has some shocking form in testing conditions and I’ll be amazed if it goes off as market leader"   WON 4/1


"Contrive looks to have been given a chance to record her third win in four starts, the other effort was a second in a class 2 at Newmarket, having been raised on 3lbs for her last win. The small swing in favour of Golden Iris shouldn’t be enough for that filly to reverse the form (7/2 [rule 4])"   WON 9/4


"Black Mischief looks to be a bit of value in a competitive handicap hurdle....on an upwards curve until falling last time out at Market Rasen when mounting a serious challenge; the winner that day has since gone up a stone. Harry Fry has his yard in good form and the champion jockey replaces the amateur that rode last time out.@ 11/2 each-way the selection looks the bet."   WON 6/1


"An each-way angle with Jellmood currently priced-up at 16/1 has slipped to his lowest ever rating after a couple of disappointing efforts since having a wind op. A repeat of his novice win a year ago would put him in with a shout here off of 85. It will take a leap of faith to hope he’s back to his best but at the prices it’s a risk worth taking."  2nd 12/1


"Speedo Boy could be the best handicapped horse of the day on a perch of 118 after his fine run in the Cambridgeshire and has a favourites chance here "  WON 4/1


"Loose Chips is proven at the track and after an encouraging seasonal debut at Carlisle he looks worth a bet to add to his course wins - 1 point win at 13/2"   WON 7/1


"I can’t remember putting up a horse that’s run twice and finished 12th and 11th but Battle Of Waterloo is worth a second look. He was a bit of an eye-catcher when 150/1 on debut at HQ when not getting a clear run in a race that now looks to have been decent. Backed into 9/2 next time out at Yarmouth he ran too freely and wasn’t suited by the softer ground. He could be a bit of each-way value against the long odds-on fav here (20/1 from 33/1 first show)"   WON 10/1


"I fully expected Contrive to be favourite so I’m delighted to see she doesn’t head the market. She finished a close second in a class 2 fillies handicap last time out, a race in which the third and fourth had won last time out. She seems progressive and a 3lb rise seems lenient and with this drop in grade she should be in the mix."  WON 4/1


"C/D winner Kingston Kurrajong also takes a drop in grade having slipped to a winnable mark and looks worth an each-way interest @ 16/1"  2nd 13/2




Selections are proofed to RACING INDEX not all Twitter bets are recorded and each-way bets are rarely proofed as each-way. Note the results are reported at SP/BSP not at the prices advised.


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