Will You Make a Profit If You Always Back the Favourite?
When it comes to all forms of betting, whether it’s on horse races, other sports, casino gambling and even playing the lotto, many people try to work out winning strategies, or at least discover strategies that will lower the odds and give them a better chance of winning.
It’s human nature to do this and only makes logical sense to increase your chances of success if you can.
Horse racing attracts all types of punters looking for an edge. If you talked to 50 different punters you would probably hear 50 different strategies to one degree or another. A common strategy many punters adopt, particularly those new to the game, is to continually back race favourites.
After all, if a particular horse is favoured to win the race, then there’s a very good chance it will. Right?
It sounds good in theory and seems like it should be profitable, but if it was as easy as simply backing all the favourites, then we’d all be rolling in the cash. It doesn’t work out that way though.
It’s similar to the strategy of always backing long shots, because the chance of a big pay day if one comes home first is very alluring.
Let’s look at some key reasons why only placing your money on favourites doesn’t guarantee a handsome profit, or even a profit at all.
Favourites Tend To Pay Less for Starters
Many race favourites are at short price odds. Sometimes the odds are so short that it’s no longer even an attractive bet at all.
The average payout on all favourites combined if they come in first lies only somewhere between $2 and $3 for every $1 bet. Now that’s not much of a profit, even if every single favourite came home first past the post.
Obviously, if you had a huge bankroll and could place big wagers on each favourite, the profit would be great, but that tactic also comes with bigger risks.
The problem is though, favourites DON’T always win the race.
In fact, throughout it’s history, only 23% of favourites have ever won the coveted Melbourne Cup.
Most Favourites Are “False” Favourites
The estimate by many horse racing punting professionals is that about 40% of race favourites are what’s known as “false” favourites, meaning they are not the horse that actually has the best chance of winning the race, but simply the horse that’s been most heavily backed by punters.
The problem is, it can be hard to recognise the false favourites. I’m sure some race goers are quite adept at it, but for most mere mortals it’s likely close to impossible.
And did you know that statistics show that only about 3 in 10 favourites actually go on to win the race. That’s only 30%, and that’s just an average. If you combine that sad statistic with the short odds favourites pay when they do win, and you’ve seriously got a flawed and losing formula if you only ever back favourites to win races.
The only plausible way to make this strategy even remotely profitable would be to become an expert at picking which horses are false favourites and only put your money on horses you believe are genuine favourites to take a victory.
Even if you could do this, to make decent money, you would have to be placing a lot more down than $1 per bet.
If you backed 100 true favourites and they all won, if you only bet $1 and the average payout was say, $2.50, then you’ve only made $250 minus your $100 worth of wagering. So that’s really only a profit of $150 across 100 races, and every single race has to be a winner to even achieve that amount.
There is a phenomenon called the favourite/long shot bias. I mentioned earlier that some punters only back long shots, and that it’s a similarly flawed strategy as only ever backing race favourites. Whether you favour the long shot or the favourite, you’re actually over-valuing the likelihood of a favourite winning the race.
The stats speak volumes, with favourites only coming home first past the post roughly 3 times in every 10 races.
Article by listener, Craig Evans