The truth about long odds

Unfortunately, bookies aren’t stupid. They set odds according to mathematical principles which all but guarantee that over time they’ll see a healthy return on their investment.

What are the chances?

It’s why you should never bet on long odds, even if you’ve received a ‘dead cert’ insider tip. Bookies can afford to fix long odds on Algeria to win the World Cup because it almost certainly won’t happen.

Even if it did they would still make pots of money on all the bets lost by people backing England, Brazil, Spain etc etc…but that’s a different story.

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Ten-to-one shots rarely come in, and you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll spend more cash than you’ll eventually earn waiting for one to happen. The same is doubly true of 20-to-ones and quadruply true of 40-to-ones.

That’s the system. Yet bookies still make money time and again from deluded punters hoping against hope that a three-legged rocking horse can win the Grand National. It can’t, simple.

Bookies generally take between five and 10 per cent margins on wins versus loses during a given time frame (on average), but as the odds get larger their ‘winnings’ get bigger. So really you’re doing them a favour.

Factor in their fail-safes and hedging calculations and you can reasonably expect the real odds of a 50-to-one shot to be about one in 100.

Okay, okay; so occasionally outside bets come in, such as Goran Ivanisevic winning Wimbledon in 2001 and San Marino scoring fastest ever goal in a World Cup qualifier against England.

But if your strategy is to pick one of these unlikely events taking place, then you could be waiting your whole life for a win.

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