Like a lot of matched bettors I have lately been focused on the numerous football offers doing the rounds this season. These are usually very profitable and are relatively easy to get a good qualifying bet on.
Something I have noticed with most Premier League football offers is that the qualifying bet usually involves placing a bet on the favourite team. Even when betting on the favourite team is not strictly required for the offer this usually delivers the lowest qualifying loss and / or the highest chance of triggering the offer, this usually makes it the obvious choice!
I have also noticed whilst regularly hitting these offers is that I’m accumulating a lot of cash in my bookies accounts whilst taking some big hits at the exchange. In other words I’m “winning” a lot of my football bets. Of course I’m not really winning these bets as I always lay everything off but this has got me thinking if betting on the favourite teams could be profitable in the long term?
I understand past performance doesn’t always guarantee future returns however, I still find it interesting to look at these patterns and what they might tell us. Basically the favourite is determined by the market pricing it up as such, so in the long term is the market correct and more importantly, is the market profitable (given the odds on the favourite are obviously priced in as such).
I will be using historic data for the Premier League from www.football-data.co.uk. This is an excellent resource which provides CSV files containing results for all games on a yearly basis.
I will be importing 10 years worth of results data into a SQL Server database so I can write some queries which allow me to ask betting related questions. For example I could ask how much profit I would have made had I backed the favourite team in every game or had I backed the favourite team only when playing at home and so on.
I prefer this method to using spreadsheets which I find cumbersome for anything more than quick analysis. This data doesn’t unfortunately offer Betfair odds so I will be using Bet365 odds for the profit and loss calculations. This isn’t ideal since Bet365 obviously Have a margin to make but it should be close enough for this level of analysis.
Always Backing the favourite at Home and Away
I am looking at Premier League games which took place between 16th August 2008 and 2nd January 2018 in order to see what would have happened?
can be seen from the table below approx 54% of these games have been won by the favourite team and with over 3600 samples used this should be a fairly representative figure to work with.
Next I would like to see what would have happened had I placed a £1 bet on the favourite team in each of these games:
The graph doesn’t look good at first sight! Betting £1 per game on the favourite would have delivered a loss of £90 and a yield of -2.44% over this period. I suppose this isn’t too bad a loss when over £3600 has been wagered however the graph clearly shows an unmistakable downward trend over the long term!
Backing the favourite (Only When Playing at Home)
The unofficial wisdom in football is playing at home will give any team a bit more of a chance than they would have playing away. As to whether this is true across all football I don’t know however, I can modify my query to only select games where the favourite team is playing at home:
above table shows us that when the favourite team plays at home they win 55.6% of the time, this is 1.5% higher than the all games average which covers all games both home and away. With over 2500 games it is fairly safe to assume that a favourite team is slightly more likely to win when at home than away, although this is a fairly thin margin over the long term!
If I had bet £1 on each game again would this additional win rate have made the practice profitable or would shorter odds have more than cancel this advantage out:
Looking at the graph above there is still a definite downward trend in-play, although not as severe as was seen when the backing the favourite every time. Even though this method did come back into profit several times throughout the course it was still undeniably a negative trend in the long run!
Backing the favourite (Only When Playing Away)
When a favourite team is playing an away game we would expect them to have a tougher time winning, this should be reflected in the odds and therefore could prove to be a profitable bet in the long run?
table above we can see a hit rate of 51.5% confirms that do see less wins when a favourite team plays away, although with over 1000 samples the win rate is still over 50%!
Although we definitely have a lower hit rate we would again expect higher odds to compensate for this, how would my £1 bet per game have fared over the last 10 years:
With a loss for the period of-£41.10 and a yield of -3.87% this is the worst performer of the three. Interestingly had I started this sequence in 2013 it would have generated a small positive yield, maybe this highlights that in the long run things always even out and betting over 3 or 4 seasons simply isn’t enough to draw any real conclusions from?
So if nothing else this shows betting on the favourites with a bookie isn’t very profitable in the long run, even if you do have some good years the poor value on offer from a traditional bookie will always get you over the long run!