With the coming of the digital age, betting odds have received much greater attention than ever in the history of Australian thoroughbred racing. Years ago you were stuck with the Tote price if you were punting off-course or you took a trip to the track and swirled around the bookie ring looking for the best fixed odds on the boards.
These days with a plethora of odds types on offer from bookmakers, and odds checkers available to punters online, there is an ever growing population of punters on a quest to find the best odds every time they punt.
It might be a controversial opinion but if here it goes - if you are not setting you own betting market you are better off taking a "Best of" odds types available at bookmakers like Ladbrokes.
Punters who have the time and resources to accurately set their own market pay attention to price because they are seeking odds on offer which are greater than the price that they have assessed as "true odds" for a favoured runner. In this circumstance fixed market analysis makes a lot of sense. Punters putting in the many hours required to master this approach will usually abstain from placing a bet if they can't get a reasonable margin over their true price for a given runner.
If you are not doing this sort of analysis then you really have to ask how practical an odds checker is for you. If you are staring at a screen with ten sets of markets, are you prepared to have sufficient funds in each betting account to take the highest available price at the point where you are ready to bet? Some punters maybe, but the overwhelming majority of punters have funds in one or two accounts at any one time and that's it.
If you can't accurately assess your own betting market and you are still focussed on analysing fixed odds markets, then you're probably trying to get a price that is as close to the top of the market as possible. That sounds like a worthy goal but how does one actually do this?
The most common approach I hear from punters looking for the top of the market is to bet early. I have personally observed betting markets for some time now and I am not convinced this is true. While I haven't compiled years of data to disprove the theory, I believe the recent Group 1 Stradboke Stakes meeting is a typical example of how fixed markets behave.
SP = starting price; BT = best tote; Open = prices available when the market opened; Low = lowest fixed price available; High = highest fixed price available
Comparing the 'Open' column, which shows the opening odds at Ladbrokes, to the SP and BT price, we observed that the opening price was the highest fixed odds price available in only three races on the nine race card, challenging the theory that early odds are always best.
I guess it's possible that a punter could have instinct about where the top of the market lies but it's unlikely that he will be able to continually scan the market to utilise that instinct. The Stradbrokes Day markets at Doomben suggest you would have definitely missed in four races if you were following your instinct to take price drops as a signal to pounce - Races 3, 6, 8 and 9 saw prices blow-out, in some cases over 100%.
In two of the other five races - Races 2 and 5 the odds went higher before they went lower, so it's difficult to see how instinct could drive one to place a bet at precisely the right time to capture the highest point in the fluctuation cycle.
As a service provider that sits in the middle of Punters who share their information, and those that follow that information, we are very conscious of the discussion that plays-out with regards to prices used for a tipster's winning selections when calculating their profit.
The punters placing their tips usually argue that they should receive the highest Fixed Odds available over the market's cycle. However we have argued back that this approach is not realistic for the punter following the selections as there is no practical way that they can achieve the highest fixed odds each time a bet is placed following their tip.
Critics have argued that we should use a starting odds product like SP or middle/best tote, which ever is available for the race in question. This approach, however, does not account for the Fixed Odds range that is available to punters over the course of the betting market which on a number of occasions is likely to provide opportunities to get higher odds than starting or middle tote prices that are available.
Through a lot of consultation with punters and form analysts in the media, Best Tote was unanimously viewed as the fairest price to use for a tip, even if it is not available for the race. Looking at the results from Saturday's Doomben meeting above, Best Tote is below the mid-range of fixed odds for four winners of the races and a mere 5 cents away on another. Which puts it right in the middle of what the two groups are asking for.
The uproar about prices used by some subscription tipping services to measure a tipster's performance has some merit. When we review the results posted on some of the subscription tipping websites where they claim to make a profit, we often note that the prices that they use are at the top of the fixed odds range.
While it is possible for the tipsters to achieve these prices, it is highly unlikely that punters taking the tips will even get close.