Betting Underdogs

Why the underdog is no longer such good value.

Five years ago there was an almost guaranteed way to making money on the Asian handicap - always bet against the favourite.

The reason for this was simple - bettors across Asia preferred to bet on the big clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal and the bookies would move their lines to reflect this. United regularly started as much as ½ goal favourites bigger than the equivalent fixed-odds bet in Europe.

But the bookies I speak to regularly tell me things have changed. Bettors have learned the hard way - through their wallets - that betting on favourites is a bad idea. Punters in Hong Kong and Singapore are now especially clued up to this, although bookies in Thailand, Taiwan and parts of Indonesia still report that they see about 20% more money for the favourite than the underdog in an average EPL or Serie A game.

What should punters learn from this? One, that if you want to bet the underdog find yourself a bookie not operating out of HK or Singapore (or Johor Bahru, for that matter). If you want to bet the favourite, look out for bookies in HK and Singapore.

Secondly, bettors should learn that although both sides' odds are probably nearer the correct mark, there is still plenty of value as the markets are much more efficient now. In the bad old days, most street bookies offered 20 point markets (1.90 either side) but now 10 point (1.95 each side) is common and if you are a big player you can play on 5 point markets (1.975 each side). The downside is that there is much more of a universal Asian market - five years ago the market in Indonesia and the market in Hong Kong often operated with no reference to each other, meaning there were lots of arbitrage opportunities between the two.

Thirdly, you should try and look out for the rare opportunities when a side is over-rated. During the World Cup so much money was coming in to Asian betting houses on China that inevitably China was too highly rated. Still, when a big club plays a small club in UEFA Cup or Champions League games, the betting line often moves too much with the favourite. But in the EPL and Serie A (and to a lesser extent in La Liga and the Bundesliga) if you are betting the underdog because you think you may be getting better value, you are probably kidding yourself.