The old saying goes that you’ll never meet a poor bookmaker.
It’s certainly true that they do their utmost to guarantee a profit – a lot of the time, even when they lose, they win.
Take, for example, Leicester City’s miraculous title win last season. The bookies would have you believe that this 5000-1 shot hit them hard in the pocket. It’s just not the case.
For a start, not many bookies were offering odds that long and, secondly, when you consider the amount of losing bets on punters who backed Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and all of the other contenders, it’s pretty easy to see why it was the bookmakers who had the last laugh.
When it comes to pricing matches and even longer-term outright markets such as Premier League champion, setting is a largely statistical exercise. Previous results and form play a big part, as do factors such as injuries and other news surrounding a given event.
One area the bookies sometimes struggle, however, is in the specials markets. Markets such as ‘next manager to leave’ and ‘next club after transfer window’ present a real dilemma for bookies.
These are extremely popular with punters, but they are very difficult to price accurately. For this reason, there are usually tight limits on the amount customers are allowed to bet – the bookies do not want to risk losing too much to someone who might know more than they do.
Media speculation is a main factor on these markets and you’ll notice the odds will change rapidly if a relevant story emerges, particularly in a national newspaper. The flipside is that some of these stories are often sparked by bookmakers odds or betting patterns, meaning we often end up in a situation where both the media and the bookies are just guessing.
A couple of examples – Craig Shakespeare was available at least 15/1 to be named next Leicester manager after Claudio Ranieri’s departure and Alan Irvine was a similar price to be installed at Norwich. Both have gone on to get the jobs.
The situation at Arsenal over the past few months underlines the point. To a certain extent, we have to take bookmakers’ odds with a pinch of salt. But, equally, we can’t just ignore them. They’re usually based on at least some kind of perceived fact and, if nothing else, monitoring bookies’ odds helps us understand where some of the speculation comes from.
At the time of writing, Wenger is as short as 10/1 with Paddy Power to be the next Premier League manager to leave.
Only under-pressure David Moyes and Slaven Bilic are shorter odds with the same bookie.
SkyBet have Wenger at 33/1 to be next to go – the same price as Paul Clement at Swansea, with only Moyes, Bilic and Walter Mazzarri shorter priced.
SkyBet even have a market dedicated to where Wenger will be next season.
It’s 2/5 that he stays at Arsenal, 5/2 that he is without a club and 9/1 that he’s at PSG. Barca is 18/1, the France national team, Juventus and Netherlands national team are all priced at 25/1.
So if Wenger does leave, who do the bookies think will take over at the Emirates?
SkyBet have Massimiliano Allegri as favourite at 7/2, ahead of Diego Simeone (9/2), Patrick Vieira (8/1) and Thomas Tuchel (10/1).
In conclusion, then, the bookies think Wenger is most likely to be in charge at the start of next season.
Similarly, despite seemingly constant speculation, they also expect Sanchez to stay.
The Chilean has not yet signed a new contract at the Emirates, but is quoted as saying he wants to finish his current deal, which has 12 months left to run.
This has seemingly confused the bookies, who are having trouble deciding whether Sanchez will stay or go.
SkyBet go 6/4 that he’ll be at the Emirates next season, but it’s only 2/1 that he rejoins Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. It’s 5/1 that Sanchez joins Chelsea, 9/1 PSG and 10/1 Manchester United.
In short, the bookies don’t really know and special markets like this are arguably when they are most vulnerable.
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So, whether it’s using your superior knowledge of Arsenal, gut feeling or earning cash with with matched betting, there is proof that the bookies don’t always win.