Betting value: what is it and why is it important?

James Pacheco
Author, Betting enthusiast

November 14, 2023

James started working in the betting industry a few weeks before Roger Federer won his first-ever Grand Slam and a few months before Greece shocked Europe’s elite at Euro 2004.

Showing a profit on sports betting in the long term is the ultimate goal of any punter. Short-term wins, however big, are exciting and pleasing but they’re no good to you if over a period of a few months or even years, you’re in the red rather than the black.

The bad news is that showing a profit over time isn’t so easy to do. Even some of the best punters allow ill-discipline, a lack of control, poor decision-making or inadequate bank management to creep into their betting. And then of course, there’s sheer bad luck:  it’s not your fault that a player with an immaculate penalty record misses a spot-kick in the last minute when you needed him to score.

The last bit is unavoidable, and, in this game, you need to take the rough with the smooth. But what you as a punter can control is how you go about your betting in order to make as few mistakes as possible.

And top of the agenda when it comes to this is understanding and implementing betting value into your wagering. It’s the single most important thing you need to do for long-term success and the foundation for pro punters’ betting.

We’re about to explain what it is, how it works and why it’ so important. But let’s start by looking at how different types of punters may approach a betting market to highlight the concept of it.

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Case Study: Manchester City v Manchester United First Goalscorer market

Let’s say punters 1, 2 and 3 are all considering placing a bet on the first goalscorer market ahead of this match.

Punter 1

P1 decides that he’s going to place a bet on the prolific Erling Haaland to be first goalscsorer. It’s pretty much a gut-instinct decision based on the fact he scored a load of goals last season, takes penalties and is the most likely winner so the best chance of returning a profit of sorts.

P1 goes onto his website of choice, sees Haaland is available at 4.5 (though he would have placed the bet at whatever odds he was) and hopes for the best.


This is punting at its most basic. Not because he just went with the favourite but rather because he at no stage considered the actual odds at which he was placing his bet or whether the odds represented value. Given those are short odds at the best of times on such a tricky market and that Haaland has been somewhat out of form and even if he went on to win, it would be a poor value bet.

Punter 2

P2 decides Haaland is worth a swerve at what he suspects will be poor odds and instead prefers to take a punt on Marcus Rashford and Julian Alvarez.

However, there’s a caveat: he decides Rashford must be at least 8.0 in order to place a bet and Alvarez must be at least 9.0.

When going to his bookie of choice, he sees Rashford is 8.5 but Alvarez just 8.0; so, he places a bet on Rashford only.


P2 has shown an understanding of betting value by deciding what are fair odds and has shown the discipline to only bet on the player whose odds he considered fair, whilst avoiding the player whose price was too short. Should Rashford go on to be first goalscorer, he’ll actually get a slightly bigger payout than he expected.

Punter 3

P3 approaches the market in a totally different way.

He takes the starting XI for each side once that’s known and then looks at the research he did during the week.

In the research he eliminated a few players with very poor first goalscorer records or others he feels are unlikely to appear in goalscoring positions.

He then whittles down the 22 to seven or eight players and works out odds for each one considering such criteria as: 

  • Overall scoring record.
  • How many times they’ve been first goalscorer over the past 2 seasons.
  • Recent form.
  • Considerations like whether he takes penalties or dangerous free kicks.
  • The position on the pitch he’ll be playing and whether he’s likely to appear in goalscoring situations.

He then takes his list of 7-8 players and compares them to the odds on offer. But unlike the other two, P3 has multiple betting accounts (another key element to successful betting) so is giving himself the best chance of finding value bets because different sites offer different odds on the numerous runners in the market.

After comparing his ‘homemade odds’ to those on offer, he decides that two players are bigger odds than what he had them down as:

Bruno Fernandes– P3 odds: 8.0    Bet365 odds: 9.5

Jack Grealish – P3 odds 10.0 Betfair odds: 12.0

Following his policy of only backing players who are bigger odds than they should be, and benefiting from the fact he has several accounts, he places bets on Fernandes and Grealish.


P3 is betting like a pro. Rather than deciding beforehand who he fancies, he’s applying maths and sound judgement to determine what odds the different candidates should be and only betting on those who are bigger prices than expected. Or in other words, placing value bets. It’s an objective rather than subjective approach.

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So, what is betting value?

Let’s go back to basics. A coin toss is the ultimate 50/50 chance.

If someone offered you odds of 1.9 on heads or tails, those are poor odds. If someone offered you odds of 2.0 that’s exactly what they should be. But if someone offered you odds of 2.1 on either outcome that’s a value bet: you’re being offered greater odds (and a bigger potential payout) on an outcome than what they should be mathematically.

Unfortunately, sports betting doesn’t throw up such clear-cut odds as a coin toss. There are lots of factors at play.

So, it’s up to you, the punter, to follow a similar approach as P3 did in taking as many factors as possible into account when trying to work out odds for yourself.

Your results will, by definition, be subjective.

Punter 4 may come along, take other factors into consideration such as which team he thinks will score first or give more importance to some factors than others compared to P3. In other words, the odds P4 comes up with on Fernandes and Grealish are likely to be different to those that P3 came up with.

That’s fine but the important thing is you have a method in place, you’re loyal to your approach and only bet at bigger prices than expected, further aided by having several accounts, meaning you’ll be able to get the best price on a particular player across those accounts.

Why is betting value important?

No-one is going to win all the time. An active punter may place dozens of bets every week and depending on the odds in question, the wisdom of those bets and getting the rub of the green or not, a fair few of those will lose. Again, that’s just part of the game.

But what you as a punter must do is give yourself the best chance of beating the house in the long run. And the best way to achieve that is to get betting value so that every bet you win on, gives you as big a payout as possible. That will go a long way to cancelling out those losses and better still, allow you to show a profit.

At this stage, some punters may be thinking ‘what difference does it make if that bet was value as it lost anyway?’ or ‘it may not have been value, but at least it was a winner.’

Fair enough but that’s missing the point. The point is that your method and strategy need to be correct from the outset every time rather than looking at the end result and deciding it didn’t make much of a difference.

Greater value on outsiders

Of course, in the middle of all this are examples of poor value, spot-on prices, slight value and really good value, the latter meaning that you’re getting considerably bigger payouts than what you should be getting. And you’re more likely to find those when betting on outsiders than favourites or short-priced bets.

Let’s say it’s Chelsea v Arsenal and in your head, you priced up Arsenal at 2.8.

Assuming you did a good job of pricing up the market, you might be able to get 2.9 or 3.0 if you’re lucky. It’s a high-profile match, Arsenal are slight favourites and no bookie wants to take a risk by offering generous odds knowing that thousands of punters may wade into Arsenal, resulting in a bigger payout than usual should the Gunners go on to win.

But you might be surprised to find far better examples of betting value on say Declan Rice to be first goalscorer, Ben Chilwell to score a goal, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale to be shown a card, or for the match to finish 3-1 to Arsenal.

Bookmakers know that there will be far less interest in these markets than the straight match-winner so may be prepared to offer generous odds to attract interest. Alternatively, they may not put in the same amount of effort pricing up those markets as the most popular ones, which could result in bigger prices that way. All the better for you.

Other examples of betting markets where you’re likely to find considerable value are horseracing markets (particularly those with lots of runners) or golf tournaments where any one of 80+ players could win.

Whereas the prices are likely to be tight on the favourites, outsiders may be far bigger than what you’d think.

Best value of all on Betfair

And nowhere is this more the case than when betting on the Betfair Exchange. Because of the mechanics of how the Exchange works (peer-to-peer betting) there’s a far greater chance that a layer (someone acting as bookie and offering you odds) out there will take a risk on a few outsiders by offering considerably better odds than what you’d get with the bookies.

So, let’s say you’re looking to bet on Keegan Bradley to win the upcoming US Masters. You might make him a 60.0 chance, only to find a couple of bookies offering odds of 75.0. But don’t be too surprised if someone on Betfair is offering odds of 100.0.

Of course, when using Betfair, the opposite is also true when it comes to laying.

If you decide that our old mate Haaland should be around 1.9 to score a goal for City against Arsenal and you’re able to lay him at odds of 1.7, you’ve got a value bet, as well.

In this case, you’re playing bookmaker, but the principle is still the same, just in reverse:  you yourself are offering a smaller payout than what you should be offering, have the better end of the bet and therefore have struck a value bet.

About the Author

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