This is something I love to do and do it as often as possible – finding value in betting sport futures. Or, for the uninitiated, I like to bet on the outcome of sporting events or championships that may be weeks or months out. Why do I like to do this? One word…
Remember this one – a parlay comparison of two sportsbooks? The sportsbook that probably everyone knows about is offering terrible odds compared to the sportsbook few people have heard about, or have visited. When betting your hard-earned money, you must always get the best value.
I spent some time over the last few days understanding the format of the 2019 Women’s Soccer World Cup Tournament and the future odds being offered by a few different books. Take a look at the photo posted with this article. I compared three books Boulder Station (BS), one of the Stations Casinos sportsbooks, Arizona Charlies (WH), which contains a William Hill sportsbook and Vegas Insider (BOL), which says it posts odds from an online sportsbook (technically illegal) called BetOnline.ag – here is a link to their odds.
When betting futures, I’m less interested in the team(s) I bet on actually winning the tournament. I’m more interested in the arbitrage or hedge opportunities that come along with this kind of wager. For more on that, you can read up on some March Madness futures articles I have on this site here:
Told, you I like doing this!
Back to the Women’s World Cup…
Again, and this is important, I am less interested in picking the correct winner. I am most interested in holding a live ticket I can arbitrage or hedge or bet against. Buying a future that offers great value is the absolute best way to do this. And shopping those futures around is how we find value.
Before I rush out and make bets, it is important to understand the format of the tournament you are betting and understand what value actually is. The FiveThirtyEight website is an excellent resource. This site is a bunch of intelligent people who analyze the possibility of something happening using math many of us do not understand. There are a lot of algorithm handicappers out there who are very sharp. If you are not particularly sharp at math, as long as you understand the concepts of how they arrive at their conclusions, then you may certainly utilize their work in your handicapping and betting approach.
Clearly, the two favorites are the host team France and the defending World Cup defending champion USA. But the tournament futures for these two teams are (at the time of this writing): USA +120 (WH) +160 (BS) +300 (BOL) and France +250 (WH) +300 (BS) +325 (BOL). Not much value in the favorites and probably no value to arbitrage or hedge as the tournament progresses.
Getting back to what FiveThirtyEight had to say, we can scan the teams and their corresponding odds to find a team or teams that may offer value to hedge against. Here is where the tournament format comes into play and is very important to consider.
The tournament begins with 24 teams that had to qualify for the tournament. Hence, these teams “deserve” to be here. In theory, it is possible that any of the 24 teams can win – you know – a chip and a chair in poker parlance. However, the reality is, some teams are better than others and these “better” teams are made favorites to advance and win.
There are six Groups made up of four teams per Group. The top two teams from each group will advance. AND the four best teams of the six third place teams from the Group Stage also advance! Hence, the next stage of the tournament will contain the Round of 16. Matches will then be played to “knock out” the 16 teams until they arrive at a tournament champion.
That is how we can derive value. Let’s consider the “lesser” teams that will likely survive the Group Stage and move on to the Round of 16. Going back to the FiveThirtyEight analysis in the Standings Matrix, let’s work from the bottom up and consider the “value” offered us by the FiveThirtyEight predictions and the betting odds.
From Argentina up to Nigeria, only one team is predicted to have a greater than 50% chance to advance to the Round of 16 – Italy – at 59%. The other teams “at the bottom” all have less than a 50% chance of moving past the Group Stage. Then we consult the odds we compiled from our three sportsbooks to win the tournament and find Italy is 40 to 1 (BS) 50 to 1 (BOL) 60 to 1 (WH). Not bad…but not good either.
Scanning a little farther up, we find FiveThirtyEight predicts South Korea to have a 63% chance to move into the Round of 16. Furthermore, FiveThirtyEight gives South Korea a 10% chance to win the whole shooting match. So, let’s check their odds – 50 to 1 (BS) 66 to 1 (BOL) 125 to 1 (WH).
That is where we stop – we have found the absolute BEST value on South Korea (SK) at William Hill! Not only do we enjoy a 63% chance of our team advancing to the Round of 16, but our squad has a small chance, statistically, to win the tournament! There is probably still value to bet SK at any of the sportsbooks we have compared, but the absolute best value is through WH. We would be insane to bet 50 to 1 when we can get 125 to 1.
I know the reputation of William Hill being a book that caters to the square bettor and bans the sharp. That may be true. But I will suggest the sharps are “doing it wrong.” They go in and hammer a square line and get banned from doing so after they win. The better way to do this, let’s say the sharp way to do this, is bet the square line, then go do our arbitrage and hedging at other books in town. I do not expect SK to win the World Cup, so I do not expect to be rolling back in to William Hill with a huge cash (that’s right I did not tell you how much I bet). If they don’t see me cashing this ticket, then as far as WH is concerned, I’m just another square.
But, believe me, if SK can get into the Round of 16 as they are predicted to, I will have plenty of room to hedge profitably…with lots of room left over in the 10% chance SK lifts the World Cup! Perhaps that is when I get banned at WH – I will take my chances.
I know what you are thinking and, yes, I probably am a hero.