Saturday 7 June 2014

Why bet on cricket?

I've bet on a number of sports over the years but ended up specialising in cricket to the extent that it now makes up a vast percentage of my overall betting profit.

When starting out as a punter it became obvious fairly quickly that specialising in particular areas would prove more profitable than a random scattergun approach with little research into bets or understanding of the markets they were being placed into.

It has its faults but Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success helps explain the principle at stake here. Essentially the more you do something the better at it you can become. Gladwell famously refers to the Anders Ericsson's 10,000 hour rule arguing that the key to success in any field is a matter of practising the task a lot. He argues 10,000 hours is the key milestone.

After deciding to specialise on betting in a particular area it follows that it makes sense to concentrate on something it is possible to make a decent profit on. For example I could be the world's best informed, best bankrolled punter on the annual Oxford v Cambridge boat race. But with one race a year and relatively small betting markets if I was relying on it to make my living I would be a pauper.

So when choosing a sport to concentrate betting on what is needed is one that is:

1) Played and televised in high volume around the year
2) Popular enough to have vast liquidity in betting markets
3) Conducive to providing punters with edges

Cricket is all of these and more. And luckily I enjoy watching it too.

1) Cricket is televised year round

The Australian Big Bash Twenty 20 tournament kicks the year off on January 1st and the next Big Bash tournament has started by the close of that year. In between there are other domestic T20 tournaments in each cricket playing nation - as well as the Champions League and, every two years, a T20 World Cup.

Add to that other domestic competitions as well as international T20s, ODIs, Test Matches and 50 over World Cups and it is entirely realistic to bet on more than 250 televised matches a year. Some months are busier than others but there is televised cricket available every month of the year. Matches have even been known to be played on Christmas Day.

The point is if you specialise in cricket betting there is plenty to keep you busy even if you just stick to televised games.

2) Cricket betting markets are liquid

Put simply the Asian cricket betting markets are huge. They both dwarf and influence European based markets. Given the illegal nature of the Indian betting market it is hard to put a precise figure on its size. Estimates vary widely with $60 billion a year commonly mentioned, with cricket making up the lion's share of that, while estimates of up to 50 times the size of the Betfair market for a typical IPL game are also put forward.

The actual size doesn't really matter. The point is there is enough cash washing around to get a bet on. I've known opening bets in T20 games of $250,000 being accommodated with no problems. Still larger punters are catered for.

While it is possible to bet directly into Indian markets punters who don't still benefit from the huge liquidity in them as some of the money finds its way onto betting exchanges. If you ever doubt the size and impact of this money simply trade a game on Betfair where books in India are not taking bets.

3) Betting edges can be found in cricket

Without edges you won't win long term. Edges can be found in cricket in several ways. Among the most obvious are:

Edges through sheer number of markets

As in common with many sports bookmakers offer a vast array of cricket betting markets. I'll take a closer look at some of these in later posts but the simple fact is if you decide to specialise in a few of those markets you should start to win.

A bookmaker is simply a person in front a screen just like you. They might have a quick look at a database, or see what a competitor has done, and will then set a line and a price.

They are not pricing up just one market though. They are setting maybe 50 lines and prices in a tight time frame. Put more time and analysis into just a few carefully chosen markets and over time the result is inevitable.

Edges through difficulty of modelling cricket

Once a cricket match is under way there are just so many variables influencing the in running prices it is actually pretty damn hard to model the game. At the start of a tennis match you can predict the market price on each player  pretty accurately for any score you chose to pick during the match. With cricket the error margin in such predictions is just so much higher.

Even if you know three batsmen are out, for example, are they three gun bats? Or three weaker bats? Which bowlers have overs left? How is the pitch behaving? Has it changed? Are bowlers getting the ball to move? What impact will each type of bowler have in the game? Is dew likely? Rain? Or is it just very cloudy? What are the team tactics likely to be? The list goes on.

An in running match odds market is simply a melting pot of the market participant's opinion on these types of issues. It's very hard to program a model to account for such variables and come up with a correct price.

If you can be more right than the general consensus of other people in the long run you find profitable opportunities. Watch enough games and you will, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests, spot such opportunities.

It's little more than an introduction but these are some of the reasons why I concentrate on cricket and sometimes suggest it when others ask what a good sport to bet on is and why.


  1. July 2014 at 22:12

    This is a very interesting/well researched blog. I am also a pro-ckt trader .. and reall like the format/detail u have put into your posts. Plse keep u the blogging .. I know its hard .. sometimes, the time is too much effort .. and u get disillusioned, but, there are people out there reading.

    One question I have .. how do u know, if India is televsing a game/accepting bets on a certain game ? They are underground, so, is it just, u look at liquidity, and tell from that ?

    Anyway, great blog .. keep at it.



    1. Hi Megarain / bossman. Sure I remember your posts from back in the days on Betfair? Thanks for your kind comments.

      I do intend to keep blogging. Just not my intention to make loads of posts. Will pop something new up when time allows and I have something interesting to say. Always appreciate the comments / mails I'm starting to get now more people are reading.

      India - I just ask. Though usually you know in advance which games most will be sitting. It's not quite like an on / off switch over there where the market sits or it does not. Often some operators will take bets while others won't / they do different matches. Not always the case but in general if a game is viewable on TV by those interested in betting there will be markets. The books themselves have their own commentary feeds / price lines anyway.

      As for Betfair, yes, you can generally tell from the liquidity in the i/r match odds market whether the books are operating.


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