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How Do the Football Pools Differ From Fixed Odds Betting?
How is football pool betting different from other types of sports betting?
Think of the classic bets on a horse race or the outcome of a single football match. A punter (someone who places a bet) is offered odds by a bookmaker (“bookmaker”, field accountant, etc.) either face to face, over the phone or online. Now the odds that are quoted when the price is first set are based on the bookmaker’s initial perception of the odds of a given outcome.
As the event gets closer, the odds quoted by the bookmaker “drift”, i.e. they get longer (say from 4/1 to 10/1) or shorter ( say from 4/1 to 7/2). Obviously, we’re using the UK fractional odds system here, not the US or Europe – that doesn’t change the principle though.
Now, this change in odds is purely a result of the bets the bookmaker receives and the money the bookmaker has at risk. It’s not at all related to the “actual odds” (whatever they are) of the outcome of the event. The bookmaker only shortens the odds to protect themselves (because they take too many long odds bets that it would be painful for them to lose), or lengthen the odds on other horses to balance out higher priced horses short by taking bets away from the favourite, again to protect themselves.
If the bookmaker’s book is out of balance, perhaps because he has taken several large bets, he will insure himself by “licensing” – placing his own bets with other bookmakers to offset his risk. The principles are the same in hedge funds and stock trading.
Of course, on a ‘quiet day’, bookmakers may also offer generous odds as a way to boost business.
This means that if you bet when odds are first available for the event, you are likely to get near-real odds for the actual outcome of the event (from the bookmaker’s perspective).
When the bet is placed, the bettor knows in advance what the payout will be for a given outcome (regardless of when the bet is placed). The principle is the same for a fixed odds bet on a football match. However, there are only four possible outcomes of a football match for the team you select (win, lose, draw score, no draw score), ignoring the blanks. So, on a random basis for a single football match, the odds are 1 in 4 of a single correct result prediction. For a horse race with 8 horses, the random odds are 1 in 8 for a single outcome prediction (win, lose) – one “place” is actually 3 bets.
How does this differ from the pools and what are the odds of winning the football pools?
In UK football pools, the bettor is betting that a certain set of matches will produce a certain outcome (eg 8 draws or 11 home wins from 49 matches). Odds are not fixed at the time of betting. There is no prior knowledge of how many draws there will be on any given coupon. In the 2008/2009 English season there were 355 draws out of 42 coupons – an average of 8.4 draws per coupon. Including unscored draws, the figure is 544 draws, or an average of 12.8 draws per coupon. 28 coupons had 12 or more draw games.
The odds of predicting a single correct line of 8 draws when there are only 8 draw outcomes are 450 million to 1. That’s a big number, but with a small cost for each “ line”, or bet, and some precautions. in the form of analysis, it is possible to reduce the odds down to 3/1 at a reasonable bet level.
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