A frequent concern of punters is getting the best price for their selections. Our results are published with Betfair SP (Starting Price) as the listed price.

Betfair SP is known to outperform virtually all TOTES and many Corporate bookmakers’ prices by a significant margin, especially when horses outside of the top few favourites are involved. This is no doubt because Betfair only take commissions from winning bets and these are between 6-10% maximum, depending on which TOTE agency is covering the relevant race. In fact, in the case of the Queensland TAB, this commission has recently been reduced by a massive 25%, from 8% to 6%.

This whole scenario compares very favourably with the TOTE AGENCIES, which extract between 15-20% from all monies wagered, before calculating prices. This means that in effect, if we bet $1 on a horse, only about 80 cents actually contributes to the pool, seriously affecting the dividend outcome. It’s easy to see why, over a period of time, that Betfair consistently (and seriously), outperforms the TOTES. Each win pool is notably larger in terms of each animal’s share, and as mentioned, only the winners pay the commission.

However, consistently isn’t the same as always. It often pays to have a look around before committing our money and having a few accounts (or more) from which to choose is a very good idea. For example, a recent pick, SAY I WON’T, in the third at Rockhampton on New Year’s Eve, paid $4.44 on Betfair SP, yet by looking around beforehand (we’re talking 2 to 3 hours before the jump), a price of no less than $14 was obtained from one of the Corporate bookies. A screenshot of this price is attached, for verification. There are many such instances (admittedly, not all as good as this), but one or two such coups per month can add up to a nicer hotel on our next holiday, or some other frippery which makes life more enjoyable. There were signs that this horse was going to firm somewhat in the market, and this was a very good result … we’re sure most punters would agree. We often notice such positive fluctuations, but of course, there isn’t time to publish screenshots of all such events, so this is just an example to show what can happen, when we get to the pointy end of our betting schedule.

Naturally, there’s always the risk that a price might slacken after we’ve agreed a set figure, but experience will help out as time passes. In particular, when using Betfair, and a horse we’ve chosen is around the $30-50 mark, it’s usually best to take SP, because these can often drift right out to even $80-100 in the last few minutes before the race. It helps if a punter is able to accurately frame a market, or correctly assess the chance of a horse winning an event. This is a difficult skill to acquire, and we would suggest as a rule of thumb, since most of our selections are based on an assessment of general probability, that this is a useful method, taking one’s winning strike-rate as a general guide.

For example, if we have a winning strike-rate of 20-25%, clearly that means about one in every 4-5 bets is successful. From this, it follows that to win consistently over time, our average winning dividend has to be at least $6-7, preferably even higher. Since we can’t predict with certainty which of our picks are going to pay off, anytime that we can get a guaranteed price in the double figures is going to represent a good overlay. Many times, the fluctuations listed on the Corporate bookies’ websites give us an indication which way the market is trending, and can be used as a guide.

In summary, it’s usually well worth the trouble of checking around for early price levels; sometimes even better results than the one mentioned above can be obtained.