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Can We Use The Diminishing Edge In Betfair's Prices In Our Favour

When the betting exchanges burst into our lives a few years ago, the art of backing horses suddenly became profitable for many punters who had previously struggled to make long term gains at the sport. However, the glory days for backers are fewer and farther between these days – it is still possible but it requires much more hard work and patience! As one opportunity begins to diminish though, another appears……. because if the value for punters is diminishing, then the value for layers must be increasing.
From this seed, I began to investigate a laying idea based on horses around the 10-1 mark. A few years ago, laying horses at medium to long prices was almost certainly a road to disaster, due to the fact that the prices were much bigger on Betfair than the equivalent starting price. However, more recently the gap between these prices has been closing and hence laying these horses start to become a serious option.
I needed a laying system that stayed consistent year in year out, that also had a safety net in terms of still being able to make a profit even if I had to lay the horses at prices that were going to be slightly higher than their eventual SP. The basic system I worked from was as follows:
1.       Flat Handicap races only
2.       SP 8-1 to 14-1 inclusive
3.       Last run was not in a handicap or a conditions race.
I backed checked the system over a period of 19 seasons giving me the following stats:
Lay success rate                                   94.5%
Profit (at SP)                                        + 36%
Average number of bets per season         1200
This looked a good starting point. From here I needed to decide how the “system” could be best implemented as I could never be exactly sure of the SP before the race had been run. I decided on the following rules :
1.       Check race for horses whose last run was not in a handicap or a conditions race. If any qualifiers go to “rule” 2.
2.       Wait until 3 minutes before the race is due off before checking current bookmaker prices.
3.       Note all qualifying horses priced between 8-1 and 14-1 and compare their prices on Betfair.
4.       Also spend next minute noting price volatility on Betfair. If their price is fairly stable on Betfair then consider lay. If the price is not stable then ignore.
5.       Of the remaining horses that are possible lays recheck price comparison with bookmakers and Betfair. If Betfair price is no more than 20% bigger on Betfair then lay as soon to the off as is possible.
This may seem quite complicated, but a combination of satellite TV and the internet, should mean it is a fairly straight-forward process. By keeping an eye on the race preliminaries on the TV, you will have an excellent idea of when the race is actually going to be due off, which will help you decide when (or indeed if) to place your lays. The other point in your favour is that potentially there is on average only 3 to 4 qualifying horses a day. It is likely therefore, that most races will have only one or two potential qualifiers which makes the process much easier (not too many horses to concentrate on).
For the record, the following table is useful to memorize when working with the SP +20% scenario:
Price +20%
8 – 1
9.6 – 1
9 – 1
10.8 – 1
10 – 1
12 – 1
11 – 1
13.2 – 1
12 – 1
14.4 – 1
13 – 1
15.6 – 1
14 – 1
16.8 – 1
15 – 1
18 – 1
It should be noted that on Betfair 8-1 actually reads 9.0 so that needs to be taken into account too!
Having gone through the research phase I decided to see if my idea was profitable in real terms. Not being a “seasoned layer”, my plan was to use very small stakes for the first season. I also decided to stick to turf racing only and not the all weather starting in April and finishing at the end of October. Here are my results using £1 per lay (and taking my commission into account):
No. of lays
Successful Lays
Win %
+ £2.43
+ £21.57
Final Totals
£20.52 profit from a massive 649 lays. Indeed with 602 winning lays that is in truth a disappointing result. A return of just over 3% on your money. Having said that, many layers I have spoken to, rarely achieve better than 5% so maybe 3.16% for a first attempt is not that bad.
So where does it leave this idea? AND is it worth pursuing? Well having back tracked the system properly using SP for 2005 we get some interesting stats:
Lay success rate                         92.3%
Profit (at SP)                              + 11%
Number of qualifying bets in 2005  1268
As it turned out 2005, was the worst ever year for that system, so perhaps my performance was not as disappointing as first thought. However, to make real money from this type of system you would have to be looking at laying at £100 per bet and I’m not sure whether a month like July 2005 (where it would have incurred a loss of over £2700 at £100 per lay) would do my heart any good!!

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