Developing Your Sense of Value

We have pride in our incredibly comprehensive sports betting guide that is packed full of useful information and advice. We strive to cover all aspects of sports betting in order to accomplish our goal of being able to help ANYONE become a successful sports bettor. We’re here to help complete beginners and seasoned bettors alike.

Someone who has never placed a bet in their life could start with our beginner’s guide and soon become a competent bettor. Once they have some actual experience underneath their belt, they will be well on their way to making money. A more experienced bettor would probably be most interested in our strategy section. This features the kind of strategy advice that could really help them improve their betting results.

We examine a wide range of different topics, covering everything you could possibly want to know about sports betting. Some of these topics are obviously more important than others. For example, learning about bankroll management is a necessity, but learning about how if bets and reverse bets work isn’t crucial to your success.

One topic stands out to us as being the single most important topic we have to offer in our guide, which is why we feel compelled to bring this to your attention: VALUE. We frequently refer to value, as it’s basically the foundation for successful sports betting. In order to stand any chance of making consistent and long-term profits from betting on sports, you simply MUST understand the concept of value.

Recommended Reading

If you’re not aware of what value means in the context of sports betting, please read this article from our beginner’s guide. It covers the roles that probability and value play, and explains why they have to be considered when making betting selections.

The article we just mentioned is a great introduction to value, but we have to be honest; you ideally will want to know more than just the basics. That’s why we’ve written this article. It is packed full of valuable information and advice that will substantially benefit you. Really concentrate on what we talk about in this article, and you certainly won’t regret it.

We start off by explaining why value is so important. Then we teach you how to identify value in the betting markets. If you’re not already considering value when making your wagers, then this alone will help elevate your betting results to a whole new level.

In the final section of this article we teach you how to think like a pro. We explain how to train your mind so that value becomes an instinctive consideration. By developing your sense of value to that extent, it will become much easier to make betting decisions. Before you know it, true success will be right around the corner.

The Importance of Value

To say that value is important in sports betting is a major understatement. It’s a little like saying that breathing is important to humans. In other words, “important” doesn’t quite cut it. Vital would be much a better word.

The chances of anyone making money from sports betting WITHOUT understanding the concept of value are as close to zero as you can get. The only reason we wouldn’t say it’s impossible is because there’s always an element luck of involved. In theory, someone could be lucky enough to win even if they just made random betting decisions.

That’s hardly the recipe for success though. It’s safe to say that understanding value is a much better approach than relying on good fortune alone. Despite this fact, many people are still unaware of value and its role in sports betting. This is especially true of beginners and recreational bettors. They tend to focus purely on betting on what they think is going to happen. As logical as this seems, making predictions without considering value isn’t much different from guessing and hoping to get lucky.

Value basically determines whether a wager is good or bad.

While this statement does simplify things, it’s still accurate. Contrary to popular belief, the quality of a wager isn’t determined by whether it wins or loses. A good wager can still lose, and a bad wager can still win. What’s crucial to remember is this; good wagers win money IN THE LONG RUN. Bad wagers, on the other hand, lose money in the long run.

To explain this further, let’s come away from sports betting for a moment and consider roulette. On a European roulette wheel, there are 37 numbers. A wager on a single number pays out at 35:1. So a $1 wager on the correct number would win $35. That’s a pretty nice return. If you placed $1 on a single number and won, then you’d assume that was a good wager. Right? Wrong.

Over time, this is the kind of wager that would cause you to lose money. If you bet on the same number 100 times in a row, you might get lucky and win often enough to make an overall profit. But, in the long run, that number would come up roughly 1 in 37 times. You’d win $35 each time it came up, but you’d lose $1 each time it didn’t. Seeing as you’d lose 36 times for every time you won, you’d lose money overall.

Now, let’s apply that same basic principle to sports betting. Probability is not fixed in the same way it is for a game like roulette, of course, as there are too many factors that affect the outcome of sports events. We can still make reasonable estimations of probability though. Comparing those estimations to the odds available is how we find value.

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves though. We’ll explain more about how to actually find value later. Before we get to that, let’s use another example to demonstrate the importance of value. This time we’ll come back to sports betting.

For the sake of this example, we’ll imagine that there’s a tennis match about to be played between the current world number one and the player ranked 200th in the world. Based on the rankings at the time of writing, this means Novak Djokovic against Filippo Volandri.

Who’s going to win this game? Djokovic, right? He’s bound to, if he’s ranked 199 places ahead of his opponent. While the results are not guaranteed, it’s fair to assume that Djokovic is far more likely to win that not. Logically speaking, the correct thing to do would be to back him.

Let’s say we decided to do that. We looked at the betting markets, and we found that a bookmaker was offering the following odds.

Novak Djokovic vs Filippo Volandri
Match Result

The odds here mean that for every dollar bet on Djokovic we’d stand to win just one cent. So a $100 wager would return $101 for a $1 profit.

Would it be worth our time to place this wager? Sure it’s very likely to win, but there’s always that possibility that it won’t. In fact, if this game was played 100 times, there’s every chance that Volandri would win at least once or twice. Maybe Djokovic would get injured, or just have a really bad day. Maybe Volandri would play the game of his life. The actual reasons why the wager might lose are irrelevant here. The point is that Volandri has a better than 1 in 100 chance of winning this game.

In the long run, this would be considered a losing wager.

Sure, we’d win our $1 seemingly countless times with this wager, but we’d lose $100 often enough to result in a loss. To put it another way, there is NO VALUE in backing Djokovic.

Now let’s consider a wager on Volandri. We know that there’s a very, very small chance that he’s going to win. The odds mean that we stand to win $1,000 for every $1 staked on him though. That means he’d just need to win more than once every 1,000 games for this wager to be profitable in the long run. He’s practically guaranteed to do that. Therefore, there WOULD be value in backing him.

The example we just used was a little exaggerated, as no bookmaker would actually price a game of tennis with these odds. We have used extreme numbers to make our point clear. Simply considering the likely outcome of a sports event isn’t enough. We have to consider HOW likely that outcome is, and how it compares to the odds. By skipping over this step in our decision making process, we nearly eliminate our chances of making money in the long run.

Obviously, value is important when betting on sports. Now, we will take the time to focus on how to identify it.

How to Find Value

In an ideal world there would be a perfect system for finding value in the betting markets. Although, if there was, sports betting probably wouldn’t exist at all. If we could find value easily, then we’d be able to put the bookmakers out of business in no time. That just isn’t the case, however, as finding value is actually very challenging.

Why is it so hard? We have listed the two main reasons below.

  1. Bookmakers are skilled at pricing the markets
  2. Value is subjective

A lot of people think that the bookmakers have it easy. It’s a widely held belief that they are profitable simply because of the inherent advantage they have in being able to set the odds. While being able to set the odds themselves does allow them to have a built in commission, it would be ignorant to say that their job is easy.

It takes a great deal of skill to set betting odds at a level where they are attractive enough for people to want to bet, but still advantageous to the bookmaker. That’s why bookmakers and betting sites typically hire several highly trained odds compilers and traders, who are typically very good at what they do. It’s their job it to set the initial odds for the betting markets and then adjust them as and when necessary based on the money coming in.

It’s an odds compiler’s responsibility to make sure that there’s little to no value for us bettors. Luckily, they aren’t always successful, which is why it’s possible to make money. Still, they go out of their way to make sure that this won’t be easy for us.

Further Information

You can read more about the role of odds compilers in our article explaining how bookmakers make money.

The fact that value is subjective is what ultimately makes it impossible for there to be a single system for finding it. Value exists in a betting market when the chances of a wager winning are greater than the odds suggest. Going back to our previous tennis example, we determined that a wager on Volandri DID have value because the chances of it winning were greater than 1,000 to one.

The problem is that this is based solely on our opinion. It was only obvious to us that value existed because the example was so extreme. Even so, it’s theoretically possible that some people would give Volandri a less than 1,000 to one chance of winning the game. Therefore, in their opinion there WOULDN’T be any value in backing him.

Since the betting markets are never that extreme, let’s take a look at a more realistic example. We match up Djokovic to the world’s number two ranked tennis player (Andy Murray at the time of writing). A realistic betting market for this game would be as follows.

Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray
Match Result

In this example, it’s clearly much harder to identify value. It’s even possible that there may not be any value at all. A $100 wager on Djokovic returns $160 in total, for a profit of $60. For this wager to have value, we’d need to give Djokovic a greater than 60% chance of winning the game. Could we say that’s definitely the case, bearing in mind that his opponent is also an exceptional player? Although we would lean towards no, it really comes down to opinion.

There’s no definitively correct way to determine value in sports betting.

We understand why some bettors would give Djokovic a greater than 60% chance of winning a game against Murray, and why some bettors would choose to give him less. To make things even more confusing, neither group would be either correct or incorrect. It’s simply impossible to state with absolute accuracy either way.

Ultimately, finding value comes down to making the best possible judgment. When considering the probability of a sports event outcome happening, we need to try to be as accurate as possible.

In this case we’ve got to make a judgement about how likely Djokovic is to win this game. There are several ways we can do that. We could look at the past meetings of these two players, or look at their current form. We’d also want to consider any other factors that could affect the possible outcome too. These would include things such as each player’s proficiency on the relevant court surface, and how much energy each player had to expend in their previous matches.

This is essentially the very core of successful sports betting. Everything that we need to learn, the skills we need to master, the various strategies we can apply: it all revolves around trying to make accurate assessments of probability and value. Value is EVERYTHING.

Now let’s take a look at how we can help you develop your sense of value.

Thinking Like a Pro

Most sport bettors lose money overall. That’s no secret. Some people assume that they ALL lose money though, and that’s simply not true. Many people are able to make consistent profits from betting on sports, and some are even able to make a living from it.

If you want to be a profitable sports bettor, then you need to think like the professionals do. They eat, sleep and breathe value. Value is ingrained in their psyche, and at the forefront of their minds whenever they’re making betting decisions.

It’s not easy to develop your sense of value to these kind of levels. It can be done though, as long as you’re willing to effectively condition your mind to think in the right way. This is not something you can do overnight of course, but you can definitely get there if you’re committed enough. The tips we’ve offered below will help too. Follow these and in time you’ll be thinking just like the pros do.

  1. Understand the math involved in betting
  2. Focus on one sport
  3. Consider the effects of public opinion
  4. Price your own markets
  5. Review, analyze and improve
  6. Be patient and persistent

We’ll now explain each one of these tips in detail.

Understand the math involved in betting

Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to make money from sports betting. It’s certainly beneficial to be mathematically inclined, but it’s not essential. You’ll be fine, as long as you have a basic understanding of simple math concepts and know how to apply those skills.

What math concepts do you need to know? A fundamental understanding of probability and implied probability is definitely required. It also helps to understand how these things relate to betting odds, and be able to calculate expected value. We go over all this and more in our beginner’s guide that we referenced early. You can find a link to that resource at the top of this page, so please refer back to that for further information.

It’s also a good idea to learn the calculations for removing vig (or commission) from betting odds. This is covered in our article on handicapping the market.

Once you understand the relevant math, make sure you use it. And not just when you’re actually betting. If you try to think in terms of probability and value all the time, it will soon become second nature to you.

Focus on one sport

This tip isn’t crucial. We do recommend following it though, at least while you’re still developing your sense of value. Focusing your attention on a single sport will make it much easier to learn all the different factors you need to assess in order to identify value.

It doesn’t even hurt to focus on a particular league. When betting on soccer, for example, specializing in the MLS or one of the major European leagues might be the way to go.

Once you’ve got a solid grasp of what needs to be taken into account, the whole process will become more instinctive for you. You can then apply a similar process to other leagues, and eventually branch out to other sports too.

Consider the effects of public opinion

We’ve used the phrase “betting markets” a few times in this article, and it’s important to remember that odds do reflect a market. In the same way that some markets move based on supply and demand, betting markets can move based on public opinion. If the majority of people are betting on one football team to cover the spread in a game, for example, then the odds and lines will reflect that.

Try to consider everything that might affect public opinion.

To truly understand the effects of public opinion, you must also consider what’s affecting that opinion. Take the above example, where the majority of people are betting on one football team to cover the spread. Is it because they’ve overreacted to an injury for the other team, or are they reading too much into the previous week’s result? Or is it simply because they’re a popular team and people are betting with their hearts and not their heads?

Asking yourself these kind of questions, and analyzing the smallest of details, can seem like a chore at first. Before you know it, it will become a habit. You’ll find that you start doing it all the time without thinking about it. That’s the goal. The more you understand about what’s affecting the betting markets, the easier it is to identify value.

Price your own markets

This takes a real commitment of time and effort, but it can prove to be invaluable. There’s a lot to be gained from pricing up betting markets before even looking at what the bookmakers are offering. If you do it regularly enough, and for long enough, then it will help you start sensing value instinctively. The more time you spend working out probabilities and odds, the more effective your brain will be at thinking in those terms.

That’s not the only advantage either. By effectively setting your own odds, you then have a point of comparison when you do look at the actual odds on offer. This immediately gives you some indication of whether there’s any value on offer or not.

Review, analyze and improve

Constantly review and analyze your past results. This will give you insight into the mistakes you’re making and into what you’re getting right. You might find that you’re giving too much weight to home-field advantage, for example, or not giving enough weight to current form. You might even discover that you exhibit certain biases that are clouding your judgement in some situations.

Each and every one of us has room to improve when it comes to our ability to place sound wagers. By fine-tuning your systems and strategies based on honest assessments of your performance, you’ll naturally increase your ability to spot value.

Further Information

We’ve written a detailed article on the importance of keeping records and analyzing bets, that includes some useful advice for doing it effectively.

Be patient and persistent

Patience and persistence are very useful characteristics when betting on sports. You have to know when it’s right to put some money down, and when it’s right to be patient and wait for a better opportunity. Be prepared to persevere when results aren’t going your way.

These characteristics are also required while your sense of value is developing. Don’t expect to be an expert value finder right from start, as that’s just not realistic. There will probably be times when it feels like you’re not making any progress at all. Don’t give up. By absorbing all the information in this article, and following all of our advice, there’s a good chance that you’ll get there in the end.

Once you are able to consistently find value, there’ll be very little that can stop you from achieving anything you want from betting on sports. Just make sure that you practice good bankroll management and remain disciplined too.