Benchmarking value in golf tournaments can involve a minefield of number-crunching. Not only do we have to analyse some of the largest fields in sports betting, but we also have to consider multiple objective and subjective data sets in our search for +EV value bets.
Over a calendar year (one that is not affected by a global pandemic) there are nearly 100 European Tour and PGA Tour events to target. For the Majors (US Open, The Open, The Masters and the PGA Championship) and the Players Championship, liquidity is sufficient in both the Winner and the Place markets on the exchange to use as a source of information.
Whilst the Winner market can be considered to be an accurate representation of the Wisdom of the Crowds, the place market on the exchanges can be biased due to the weight of money from arbitrage players that trade the Place market in major golf events. This can lead to artificially high prices leading up to the event, and often there will be opportunities on the exchanges to seek an advantage leading up to the first tee as traders scramble, panic and leap-frog each other in an attempt to offload their late unmatched liability at ever-worse prices.
As mentioned above, the exchanges can provide information on the Place markets for the Majors, even if that information is biased.
What about the other 90 events in the year? The place markets are much less liquid for these. In many tournaments prices are non-existent for the majority of the field. The Winner market however is still liquid and efficient. Since we can’t use liquidity at the exchange for value in the places we need to use bookmakers instead. Bookmakers offer a variety of terms for each way betting, generally from 5 Places (1/4 odds) to 10 Places (1/5 odds).
Why We bet Each Way
The Win price at bookmakers is directly affected by the Win price on the exchanges. As a rule of thumb, the exchange price will always be higher than available at bookmakers, and will be liquid enough to be relevant. Bookmakers track the exchange price and will react quickly to cut their odds if smart money comes in to drop the exchange price. There is very little tangible benefit in betting To Win at the bookmaker instead of the exchange.
Instead we can find value in Each Way betting. The value in the place part of the each way bet is tracked with much less vigour by the bookmakers due to the fact the exchange market is illiquid. Many bookmakers cut their prices based on only two factors: weight of money for a selection and exchange price. If there is value in the place price for a player – but we’re yet to bet on it and the exchange price is non-existent – then we will be able to take advantage of a value bet by betting Each Way with a bookmaker.
To do this, it is our responsibility to estimate and benchmark a price for the place component of a golf bet. The bookmaker can offer a myriad of terms (from 5 places ¼ odds to 10 places 1/5 odds) in events with 100-200+ players there are usually many +EV opportunities to take advantage of every week. The liability accepted by bookmakers can be very reasonable in golf, and if restricted online many bookmakers offer concessionary places when betting in shop.