In-running betting is an increasingly popular way of betting on football. We sent novice Andy Thompson to give it a try – and he picked up some expert advice along the way.
For those of us brought up ensuring we had placed our evening football bets before the manager of the local William Hill had settled the last at Kempton, the fast-moving, all-action world of in-running betting has come as quite an eye-opener. Just ten years ago, the opportunities to get a bet on anything at all once the action had begun were few and far between.
But now it’s all the rage. It took the real-time mentality of spread betting firms used to offering prices on financial markets to grasp the huge possibilities of in-running betting. ‘In the City, speculating on propositions or events as they are happening is a way of life,’ said Sporting Index’s Wally Pyrah. ‘Betting on sport in the same was a very logical progression.’
Just Don’t Overreact, Okay?
Now, with the net providing a platform for in-running markets on the exchanges as well as numerous online bookies, we have the opportunity to bet on any sport, any time, anywhere.
InsideEdge gave me some betting money to play in-running on the spreads, fixed odds or the exchanges on the match of my choice. If I won, I got to keep the spoils in lieu of my fee. The biggest match at the time of writing was the all-important World Cup qualifier between England and Poland. So I took the plunge.
On the night, I had a strong view that England would win but it would be a tight, low-scoring game, taking plenty of time for Eriksson’s team to get on top. My plan was to sell goals on the spreads, with a view to trading out later. So as the match kicked off, I sold £100 of the match goals at 2.1 with Cantor Sport. Similarly, I wanted to bet on the exchanges against there being lots of goals, so I put £200 on fewer than 2.5 goals at 1.85 (10/11) on Betfair.
In the match markets, I wanted to back England, but as I thought it would take them some time to get on top, I decided to wait for the match to progress hoping for a better price if England failed to score early.
The match kicked off and everything looked like it was going to plan. Both teams were probing, but neither looked likely to score. After ten minutes, my bets on the match goals were looking in great shape.
On Betfair, the opening price on under 2.5 match goals had plummeted down to 1.62, leaving me the chance to take a profit already. Significantly, however, on the spreads the price was far more stable. Cantor’s quote was 2.0-2.3 – just one tick less than the opening price.
So why the divergence? ‘People often overreact on the exchange markets,’ said Cantor Sport’s chief football market maker, Dave Stone. ‘If a match looks like it’s going in a certain direction early on, punters often look to go that way at all costs. But it’s important to remember almost all matches fluctuate over the 90 minutes. While a match can be tight early on, sooner or later teams have to be more expansive, especially when a goal is eventually scored.
‘In the goals market there is a historical 45% / 55% statistical split between goals scored in the first and second halves. There are often huge overreactions to a goal on the exchanges. The shrewd punter should exploit that whenever possible.’
By the 20th minute things were beginning to hot up. Jermain Defoe flashed a shot just off target, and a couple of minutes later David Beckham broke from midfield and volleyed just wide of the far post. England were beginning to get on top.
I opted to make my match bet. As I suspected, England’s price was trading at 2.04 on Betfair and evens without commission with fixed odds bookmaker Paddy Power – far better than the shade of odds-on at the start. On to the phone for an even £100 with Paddy Power. I didn’t have long to start celebrating. A brilliant turn in the box by Defoe, and England were 1-0 up.
Suddenly it all went mad. Prices available seconds earlier were replaced in front of your eyes. The evens with Paddy Power about England was now 1/4. Poland tripled in price to 16.5 on Betfair.
I was now sitting pretty with my bet for England to win, but it wasn’t looking so clever for my bet on total goals. Poland now had to go forward looking for the equaliser, and I was worried it may play into England’s hands. The spread on the market with Cantor was now 2.4-2.7. If I closed, I’d have to buy at 2.7, leaving me with a guaranteed £60 loss. I really didn’t fancy the bet any more, but I couldn’t bring myself to take the loss on the chin. I was in this to make a profit, and I decided to hold on and hope.
It was a classic mistake. ‘Clinging on to positions in the hope they’ll move in your direction is a very typical mindset for most spread punters,’ continued Cantor’s Dave Stone. ‘While people often talk about the advantages of taking a profit in-running, in my experience the very best spread punters are the ones who are always prepared to take a hit if they don’t like the look of their positions. Decisive action as soon as you feel things aren’t going your way can save you from bigger losses by the end of a game.’
Professional punter and chief executive of Premierbet, Tony Bloom, concurs: ‘One of the great strengths of in-running betting is it gives you the opportunity to make an about-turn if the situation demands.’
It was half-time in Katowice, with England 1-0 ahead. So far they had bossed the game, and, if the first half was anything to go by, the outcome looked set.
England were available to back at 1.36 on Betfair. Given that they were already odds on when the match began, that looked a gift on a team who already had a one-goal start. I lumped on another £150. Amateurish mistake number two.
Minutes into the second half and – massively against the run of play – Poland scored. Suddenly, the whole match was turned on its head. The Poles, heartened by their equaliser, started to bomb forward, continually threatening Paul Robinson’s goal, and for the first time in the match England were on the back foot.
The in-running prices had moved against me in a big way. My bet on England, now a total £250 at an average price of around 4/6, was in very bad shape. They’d lost their lead and could now be backed at 5/4 or more on Betfair or Paddy Power. And my spread bet on total goals at 2.1 on the spreads now looked a liability.
Bandwagon or Gravy Train?
‘Punters can often get blinkered when they’re watching a match in-running,’ explained Johnny Hartnett of Paddy Power. ‘If a team is dominating the game or have a lead, it’s often very easy to get sucked into jumping on the bandwagon. But matches ebb and flow. When you’re betting in-running it’s always best to consider the whole picture, not just the here and now.’
I was left with a bet on England at a price well below current market value, and a fixed odds and spread bet on the match goals where one more goal would wipe out my chance of a profit.
Little wonder that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when, against the run of play, England went back in front. The Polish own-goal meant that though I was looking good once again on my bets for them to win the match, I was facing a loss of £200 on my bet on under 2.5 goals, and a minimum £90 loss on my spread bet.
I sat staring at the TV screen, as the minutes of the match ticked away, mentally calculating the damage. I would win around £187 if England held on, but lose £290 on the other bets – a loss of more than £100.
I looked one more time at the Betfair screens, the mug punter in me desperate to find a way out of trouble. With only nine minutes of normal time England were available at 1.22 to win the match on Betfair (more than 1/5), but a more realistic 1/7 with Paddy Power. The Poles looked beaten, and the 1.22 looked superb value.
In a moment of madness, I let my demons win, and resolved to chase my losses. Convincing myself that the 1.22 was the value bet of the year but, in truth, just wanting to blast my way out of trouble, I placed £500 on England at 1.22 to win back my £100. Suicidal behaviour in the eyes of most punters, but ironically, it seems there was some method in my madness.
My Moment of Madness
‘Towards the end of matches there is often fantastic value to be had on the exchanges,’ explained Tony Bloom. ‘As a match comes to its conclusion, there will be many people looking to close out bets that are on their way to being successful for a guaranteed profit. No-one wants to have a winning bet foiled by a last minute goal, and the desire for punters to get their money early often makes for fantastic opportunities for backers late on.’
Though I didn’t deserve it, and more by luck than judgement, the betting Gods smiled on me, and England played out the remaining few minutes untroubled by the Poles. After a 90-minute rollercoaster ride, I was left with a profit after commission of £5.50. Not a great night’s work, but a profit.
What have I learnt from my first experience of in running betting? Well, like all forms of gambling, in-running betting requires great discipline and patience. In a betting culture where it’s all too easy to pick up a phone or click on a mouse, especially when emotions are running high during a match, it’s really important to treat every price on its merits, whatever’s happening in the game itself. But above all else, I learnt that betting in-running on football matches, where the pattern of events can be turned around in a moment, can be very unpredictable indeed.