The second of a two-part series guide to tennis betting, by Jonathan Premachandra (read part one here). Jonathan has an in-depth knowledge of sports betting, in particular tennis and cricket, and can be found on Twitter here.
This is a more lucrative form of sports betting and can even add excitement to one-sided lackluster matches such as the opening rounds of a Grand Slam. It can also be an effective way of making ‘safe’ money. There are various different betting strategies that one can employ when betting on in-play markets but I will start with the basics.
To bet in-play allows you to constantly change your mind about the outcome of a match, set, final score or even individual point winner. There are so many different things you can make calls on while the game is in play and these all continue to change, often after every single point in a game. For the sake of keeping things simple, we will just look at live betting on the outcome of an overall match.
For an example, let’s look at a typical game between Venus and Serena Williams, played in 2005 at a time when both sisters were very evenly matched, to a point the bookies could not choose a favorite and priced them both at 1.90 (10/11) before the match was played (there may have been slight variations depending on which bookmaker you used). As soon as Serena took the first break ,the odds shifted substantially, Venus became 2.5 (6/4) while Serena moved to 1.57 (4/7) favourite. Now the match is still only in its first few games and Venus could easily break back and take the set, even if she doesn’t she could take the next set and be back in contention for the match. Provided she is not injured or having a really bad day, now would be a good time to back her. Lets say we put £10 on Venus at this point.
At this point we hope that she makes some sort of comeback and the odds ‘shift’ or ‘swing’ back the other way. Sure enough she breaks back and goes on to win a tight tie-break to take the set. Now she is the favorite and even more so than Serena was after that early break. Venus is now at 1.4 (2/5) while Serena is now at 3.0 (2/1). You could choose to leave it now and you would be about to see a return of £25 from your original bet if Venus goes on to win, however I would now advise a cover bet.
It is only one set down and the second one has yet to start, you could even wait for Venus to hold her serve before hedging your bets. So after Venus holds her serve in the first game of the second set, Serena is now at 3.5 (5/2) so you can now cover by putting maybe £7 on Serena which means you will get a return of £24.5 from a total stake of £17 for the match if Serena was to comeback and take the match from here (Note: if Venus wins you will still get £25 but now you have staked a total of £17). With this bet you have now locked in a minimum win of £7.50 and have no chance of losing money (if the match is called off, all bets are void and you get your money back). This is what is known as ‘locking in your winnings.’ You can continue to bet as long as you feel that the match still has potential to change in a way that causes the odds to swing.
V. William vs S. Williams
Serena breaks at 2-2 and then holds to go 4-2 up
Venus is now underdog at 3.0 (2/1) – Bet £10 on Venus!
Venus breaks 5-3 down and holds to make it 5-5, they both hold and Venus then wins the tie-break to take the set.
Serena is now underdog at 3.5 (5/2) – bet £7 on Serena
So now a total of £17 has been staked..
If Serena wins, the return is £24.50 (£7×3.5)
If Venus wins, the return is £30 (£10×3)
Therefore you will be either £7.50 or £13 up.
The tricky part of this betting strategy is identifying swings in momentum and knowing when to back the underdog. It is far too easy to bet on a player who is a set down with odds of better than 2/1, however if they continue to lose, you will see no opportunity to cover your bet!
It is particularly profitable to use this tactic on an evenly contested game where the momentum is likely to shift back and forth, so pick matches where players are fairly evenly matched.
So choose carefully, do your research, look at how good the player in question is at fighting: are they in the gutless Tim Henman muold or would you liken them more to the stubborn Lleyton Hewit type player? Are they starting to hit their winners better? Is there first serve percentage improving? Can you really see them coming back after looking at how their opponent is playing? Is their opponent looking tired or suffering from a slight injury?
These are all things you need to consider before you make a call to back the underdog, the better you read these factors the more chance you have of locking in winnings by betting both ways.
No matter how broad your knowledge of the game is and how much you analyse things, there is always a chance that something so unpredictable and so unforeseeable will happen that bookies and betters alike will be left stunned. A solid example of this is the Semi Final of the US Open in 2011 where Roger Federer was serving out for the match and 40-15 up. Most bookies stopped giving odds but some listed Djokovic at 40/1 before this point as a sort of ‘novelty’ bet. Why such steep odds? Because Federer only needed to find a solid first serve and that would be that. There is it was, a big first serve, for a split second the bookies could breath a sigh of relief, but what followed was indescribable:
Moral of the story: No matter what the circumstances, you can never be 100% sure about a bet, however if you stop yourself from being greedy and cover your bets when the opportunity presents itself, you can make a lot of money in the long run.