Football Betting to Win
Jacques Black

Even if it was possible to get into a time machine and go back to the year 2000 when this title was published, and when the football data included within it was recent, I'm not so sure this would be such a great buy. Running in at just 180 pages, and with 6 of those dedicated to promoting the author's other two books (one of which was first published seven years beforehand), it still carried a cover price of £9.99 - which allowing for inflation would be a few pennies short of seventeen quid today. So, with the publishers asking the Great British gambling public to shell out that, one might have expected it to be something pretty insightful that would have readers glowing like the kids in the ready-brek advert. Regrettably not.

There really isn't very much in this one. With fifteen minutes of speed-reading I'd managed to get a third of the way towards the rear cover, and through doing so I'd covered a history and description of how the football pools work, how spread-betting on goals scored works and a seven page chapter dedicated to comparing the pros and cons of fixed odds betting versus spread-betting, as related to the footie. There was also some inconclusive commentary around the timing of goals during a match and the probabilities of them being scored during each 15 minute segment of a game, with some supporting data relating to matches played during the Euro'96 championship.

Mr B seems quite keen on spread-betting as a punt and I think the clue for this can be found on page 45, where he explains that if you study the prices quoted across a range of operators it's possible to take advantage of differences and do a bit of sneaky arbing - thereby putting yourself in a win-win situation. This is still possible today of course, but where such opportunities can be found they don't tend to be available for very long, as even betting markets have evolved to be very sensitive and reactive to price differences. What Mr B doesn't go into in any depth (on page 40) is the fact that if going down the spread-betting route an adverse rogue result can leave punters well out of pocket - far more than if they'd made their punt on a fixed odds basis. Some years ago when I looked into a comparison of the two there wasn't very much to choose between them rewards wise, but the risks could be very different. The operators' 20% spread tended to skew the reward/risk consideration as well.

The remaining two thirds of the book took a little under an hour to finish, largely as I thought I'd found some nuggets of wisdom that would be worth spending time on. There was the chapter on value bets, which explained the fundimentals but didn't give too much insight into how you'd determine the probability of a win/loss or whatever to compare to the bookies' prices, one on club shares as an investment opportunity and whether these provided a reasonable prospect of a return to shareholders, two on online betting, which comprised mostly of lists of online bookmakers and websites, and one dedicated to forecasting match results. This one looked at a variety of methods, including using league table points differentials and recent form on which to apply a method to arrive at a win/loss/draw probability - although there was no actual results data provided on which to judge just how effective they were. Chapter 20, "How to win at football betting", was probably the most useful part of the whole book, albeit it only ran to six pages. This went into the author's recommended seven steps to developing your own method of football betting, which are:

  • Developing a forecasting model

  • Testing the model

  • Generating prices

  • Shopping around (for best odds)

  • Placing the bet (not over exposing a bankroll)

  • Record results and measure progress

  • Evaluation

I ordered this book from a secondhand book dealer as something to assist me with improving my results with the footie betting (which frankly haven't been great over the last three seasons), and I was hoping for some quality guidance on factors to consider (the "what" and "whys"), how they might be taken into account and for some detailed instructions on the "how tos". It's disappointingly light on all of this, and is more disposed towards casual conversations around the subject matter than providing the reader with anything solid to use. All in all then, IMHO, one to pass on if you're looking for something to assist you in developing your own approch to punting on the footie.

Jacques Black was the pseudonym of a financial consultant who specialised in accounting for a number of Scottish Premier League clubs and the Scottish RFU. He was a prolific card-counter during the early nineties before being barred by just about every casino in the Capital. In addition to being a regular contributor to Odds On magazine (which was wound up in 2001) he also wrote two other books: The Moneyspinners which was first published in 1993, and then republished in 1998 by Oldcastle publishing, and Spread Betting to Win which was published in 1998.

May 2020.