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By choosing tennis as your preferred sport for betting, you have already given yourself an « edge » against those who bet on or offer odds on other sports. To use this « edge » to make money consistently, however, you’ll need to understand two fundamental principles first. Then apply the power of mathematics. It is sheer folly to place a tennis bet (or a bet on anything) with a « traditional » bookmaker. The expression « You can’t beat the bookie » is axiomatic; you just cannot beat the bookie over time. It’s because the odds are always mathematically calculated in favour of the bookmaker. Everyone knows (or should know) that the bookie’s mathematical « edge » against the punter is necessary for him to make a profit so that he can stay in business. Computer technology has given rise to a new form of betting, known as « exchange betting » or « matched betting ». With « betting exchanges » there is no bookie to beat; in other words, there is no middle-man. Every punter bets against another punter or punters somewhere out there in the Internet ether. Any punter (or « trader ») can place a « back » bet that a player or team will win, and/or place a « lay » bet that a player or team will lose. Thus, any punter can choose to act as an ordinary bettor and/or as a bookmaker. With exchange betting the odds are not set by a third-party or middle-man; they are set by the punters themselves, who place requests for odds at which they are prepared to place bets (if they wish to act as an ordinary bettor), or place offers of odds at which they are prepared to lay bets (if they wish to act as a bookmaker).
As the « back » bettors gradually lower their requested odds and the « lay » bettors gradually raise their offered odds, the software on the exchange betting web site matches all the back bets with all the lay bets at the instant they coincide. The accounts of the « backers » or « layers » are then credited with their winnings automatically a few seconds after the end of the event according to its result. Obviously, the technology for providing such a « fair » betting service must be paid for somehow. This payment is taken in the form of a commission on the punter’s net winnings on an event (or « market »). That is, commission is charged only on any positive difference between winnings and losses on the same event. This betting system is as close to a perfectly fair betting environment as it is possible to achieve. There are very few betting exchanges in existence, however, perhaps because the exchange betting software is so complex and therefore costly. The giant among exchange betting web sites is Betfair, with about 90% of the market at the time of writing. Others are the Global Betting Exchange (BetDAQ), ibetX, Betsson, Matchbook and the World Bet Exchange (WBX). Betfair is by far the most popular because it was the first to offer this « perfectly fair » betting environment, and is trusted to perform accurately and instantly.
So, why does tennis betting give you that « edge » over betting on other sports? The answer, though simple, is often overlooked even by those who bet tennis regularly. And if you’re someone who’s never bet on tennis, you’d almost certainly not have realized the significance of the tennis scoring system on the betting. Consider this fundamental difference between the tennis scoring system and that of probably any other sport you can think of. In other sports and games the trailing player or team must make up the points gap by winning a point for every point they have already lost in order to catch up to the leader. Only then can they start to move ahead. This fact seems obvious. In tennis, however, the trailing player or team can lose the first set 6-0 (possibly with a deficit of 24 points). That team can then win the second set by the most narrow of margins, 7-6 in a tie-break, winning the set by very few points (or even by winning fewer points than the opponents, a rare but possible occurrence!). As soon as the trailing player or team wins the second set, the two sides suddenly have even scores, even though one player or team might have actually won many more points than the opponents. This anomaly often has a profound psychological effect on one or both sides, which affects the way they play for the next few minutes, and therefore also the betting odds requested and offered by punters on the match. This, however, is another aspect of tennis betting which may be the subject of another article. This article deals with the mathematical aspect of tennis betting and how to win money with this knowledge.
Now that you’re aware of these two fundamental principles, how can you use them to your advantage when making tennis bets? The key is not to be just a « backer » or a « layer », simply betting on the final outcome of an event. If you do that, you will lose out over time, because there’s always a small difference between the « back » odds and the « lay » odds — there must be, otherwise there’d be no incentive for anyone to offer odds and there’d be no betting at all. Combine that with the commission you pay on your net winnings, and the « edge » is against you mathematically (although it is not as great as with conventional bookmakers).
The secret to winning at tennis betting is to be BOTH a « backer » AND a « layer », but at different points during the event. This is another aspect of betting that distinguishes the exchange betting web site from the traditional bookie. At the betting exchange you can place a back or lay bet at any time during the event, right up until the very last second or the final point. This is known as « in-play » betting. Because in-play betting is allowed, the odds for each opposing side change as the event progresses, according to the likelihood (as perceived by the punters) of either one side or the other being the eventual winner. The trick is to place a back bet on one side at certain odds and later place a lay bet on that side (or a back bet on the other side) at better odds as fortunes change and the odds swing in your favour. If you can achieve this, you will win your bet overall, regardless of the outcome of the event — a true « win-win » scenario.
Apart from Principle #2, explained earlier, tennis is ideal for such « swing » betting, because the odds fluctuate after every point is played. There are therefore very many small swings to one side and then to the other. This doesn’t happen in soccer, for example, because goals are so rare and a goal shifts the advantage suddenly and hugely to the scoring side. Furthermore, a tennis match can have one of only two results; there can be no draw or tie; and one of only two players or teams can win. In horse racing, for example, the winner can come from a large number of runners. The more possible outcomes there are to factor into the equation, the more difficult it is to win. (Despite this obvious logic, soccer and horse racing remain the two most popular sports for betting, probably for historical reasons. Tennis is already third in popularity, however, as more and more punters discover the fact that it is easier to make money betting on tennis than on any other sport.) Now that you have — it is hoped — understood and absorbed the generalities of exchange betting and the peculiarities of tennis scoring, it is time to explain the details of how you can win at tennis betting.
Earlier it was stated that the secret to winning at tennis betting is to be both a « backer » and a « layer », but at different points during the event, placing bets at different times during the event as fortunes change and the odds swing in your favour. This can be done with both « in-play » betting and « pre-event » betting. One method used with in-play betting is called « scalping ». As its name suggests, scalping involves skimming a tiny profit by backing or laying at exactly the right moment as the odds move slightly in your favour, perhaps when one player scores two or three consecutive points, and repeating the process again and again. The biggest drawback of scalping is that it is very time-consuming and fraught with mental and physical tension. Not only must you pay full attention to what’s happening during the match by live video broadcast, but you must also catch exactly the right moments at which to bet, which is, in fact, made impossible by the 5-second delay imposed by the exchange betting software between the time you place the bet and the time it is accepted. We’re not elaborating on this here because, as stated previously, this article is about winning by mathematics, not by the sweat of your brow. The maths aspect involves betting, not during the event, but before the event starts. That is, pre-event betting.
There are a few tennis betting « systems », some purely manual, others using software programs, some of which are enormously complicated. From the investigations of the writer (a mathematician), they all require the input, at some point, of a « probability factor » by the bettor. This probability factor is usually the odds at which you want your « balancing » bet (the « lay » bet on the « backed » side or the « back » bet on the opposing side) to be triggered, giving you the « win-win » scenario mentioned earlier. So, how do you determine the value of this probability factor? That, dear reader, is the crucial point of the whole matter, the linch-pin that holds any exchange betting « system » together and determines whether it succeeds or fails, whether you win or lose. Up to now, it seems, this probability factor has had to be determined by the sheer experience of a few seasoned professional gamblers, or by trial-and-error guesswork by lesser mortals. Little wonder that so many punters lose or do not win as much as they could because they do not know the EXACT value needed to optimize their bets! Accuracy is of paramount importance when determining the probability factor, in order to maximize the chances of winning consistently. A search on the Web for a tool to calculate it proved negative. The writer therefore created one that encompasses not only all aspects of exchange betting but also the peculiarities of the tennis scoring system, and called it the Abacus Exchange Betting Calculator, for want of a better name. The probability factor is calculated to two decimal places, merely by entering the pre-event odds of both opposing sides, and has enabled the writer to make consistently more than 10% profit from tennis betting since Wimbledon 2009.
As a parallel test, the writer also placed bets according to « gut feeling », in sufficient numbers to establish a trend. It resulted in a loss of 10% of the working capital (or « bank »). Other tests were done, using the Abacus Exchange Betting Calculator, by betting on other sports where small odds swings occur, such as American Football, snooker and darts (very long matches only, otherwise the swings are too large). The results here just about covered the commissions paid on winnings; so, it is not worthwhile. It seems, then, that the particular mathematical formula or algorithm (which is very complex) discussed here works well only in conjunction with the unique scoring system of tennis. As a scientist, the writer feels that it is highly probable to win at sports betting consistently over time only when the following factors are present: An exchange betting web site is used, not a conventional betting web site. (Beware of many sites that pretend to offer exchange betting by appearing in search engine results for « exchange betting »! Ensure that their software system enables you both to back and to lay bets at any odds you want against other punters, not against the house. If in doubt, check that their web site looks like the one at Betfair.)
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