What is Value? What is Value Betting?

Value betting is a phrase used to describe an approach to gambling for long term profit. Although this term is widely employed in the sports betting world, unfortunately neither ‘value’ nor ‘value betting’ are anywhere clearly defined, which naturally leads to misunderstanding and confusion.

Smart smiling business woman with a calculatorImage: Kristo-Gothard Hunor (Shutterstock)

When people talk about ‘value’ in connection with betting there are many different schools of thought.

This article therefore attempts to shed some light on this complex concept and its terminology…

Firstly, let us begin with a few synonyms for the word ‘value’: worth; usefulness; advantage; benefit; gain; profit; amount; rate; price…

You can see straight away that there is a plethora of different connotations.

The last two meanings in particular, ‘rate’ and ‘price’, are probably the reason why the expression ‘value’, when used in the context of ‘value betting’ is often unclear.

So, what is Value in relation to Sports Betting?

In order to really understand the concept of ‘value betting’, you need to grasp several connected aspects and I will tackle each of these individually for better comprehension.

Tip: Grab yourself a caffeine shot and read every section (re-read if necessary) until you are comfortable enough to proceed to the next. What I am about to say may initially be hard for some to digest, but don’t worry, you will certainly not be alone. Headache pills may be advisable for some… 😉

(1) Betting Odds are solely the Market Prices for Bets

Anyone interested in sports betting knows that bookmakers offer bets on a multitude of match outcomes and sometimes the list of available bets on a single event can appear endless.

For example, the 1×2 market allows you to bet on a home win, a draw, or an away win, either at half- or full-time. Will there be more than two goals in the match or not (over or under 2.5 goals), will both teams score, or will the match end goal-less? Et cetera, et cetera…

Only very few bettors fully comprehend and understand the fact that betting odds are nothing more than the market prices of bets.

Betting Odds are Prices that Few Understand

Betting odds are not only all-inclusive prices for bets but to add to the confusion they are displayed, not in simple and easy understandable monetary units, but in different formats such as decimals, fractions, or moneyline.

When buying a bottle of beer, for example, you pay one Euro, Pound or Dollar and walk home with your purchase. When buying a bet, say, at decimal odds of 1.27 (27/100 Fractional Odds; -370 U.S. Money Line), the only thing you may understand is that if the bet wins you will receive your stake money back plus 27% winnings. Of course, if the bet loses all of the stake money is forfeited.

Judging ‘value for money’ from a bottle of beer is far easier than evaluating the same in a bet. Many bettors struggle to calculate the expected return of a bet or a series of bets let alone analyse why the big win they hoped for failed to materialise.

Even if sports betting odds appear to be genuine offers, the fact is that odds are frequently distorted.

Betting Odds cannot be priced by Gut Feeling or Intuition

Very few people are born with a sense of probabilities and ratios. Statistics and financial education are rarely taught in high school and touched upon in very few university courses.

To develop a ‘feeling for price’ is impossible, even for those of us who are born with a sense of probabilities.

To make matters worse, every bet is actually a different product, even if betting on just one particular type, for example, the “over 1.5 goals” market. Think about this bet in the context of a match between two evenly matched teams as opposed to, say, the team at the top of the table playing the weakest team in the league. The name of the bet is still the same but the two match situations are totally different.

There is no way but applying maths and statistics to decide whether the price of any bet offered is “too expensive” or “too cheap”. Gut feeling is misleading and may prove fatal. Probabilities are a subject too complex to succeed with guesswork, feeling and intuition alone.

For those of you who are really serious about understanding sports betting in depth and developing a value betting strategy, there really is no alternative to learning the calculations necessary.

In order to grasp the concept of value it is of uttermost importance to comprehend that betting odds are merely prices, and not ‘true odds’.

Before I address the term ‘value’ I must first plunge into probabilities… please stay afloat!

learn to think like a bookmaker!
deciphering bookmaker mathematics

Last Update: 31 March 2016

Categories:Betting Terminology Learning Centre Odds Calculation

16 Responses to “What is Value? What is Value Betting?”

  1. Daniel
    27 April 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Hi Soccerwidow,

    thanks a lot for your articles.
    I think I found a small error in the alternative calculation method on page 3.
    It says: 100 × 10 × 0.23 × 81.3% = 219.51 units
    Correct would be 0.27 instead of 0.23. The result stays the same.


    • Soccerwidow
      27 April 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Daniel,

      Many thanks for taking the trouble to point out the typing error, which has now been corrected.

      Your support is greatly appreciated,
      Soccerwidow 🙂

  2. Arzu
    20 December 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Hi Soccerwidow! Thank for your site. How find value in correct score market? Can we apply this article to correct score market? Thanks

  3. Suzy
    27 March 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    just, Thank You!

    I do need to read again.. and probably again and again and again, but this is the first thing ever that makes even a starter amount of sense (I am a bookie offer taker) but never believed all offers were “long term” value

  4. TC1
    17 August 2015 at 11:13 am #

    will you be resuming your tips ( value bets ) like you produced for Betfair , always found them very good

  5. Right Winger
    17 August 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    TC1 – Thanks for the praise (blush!). Sadly we have no plans at present to re-start a value betting tipping service. Firstly, it was very time-consuming and secondly, very difficult to maintain an ethical approach against a backdrop of clients who praised when things went well, and those who criticised when things didn’t work out for them in the short-run.

    Value betting is a long-term strategy but no matter how many times we point this out to people, they still get tense and agitated when the inevitable losing streaks occur. We don’t wish to martyr ourselves again, so producing picks is not on the agenda at this time.

    Sorry to disappoint and thanks for all your past and valued contributions to Soccerwidow.

  6. TeckChuan
    13 June 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    Dear soccerwidow

    The above shows how a back bet value edge is counted.

    I can’t seems to understand the way you count a lay bet value
    Do you mind showing me how?

    • Soccerwidow
      15 June 2016 at 9:08 am #

      Hi TechChuan,

      to calculate the ‘value’ for a lay bet you have simply to reverse the calculations.

      Just repeat the calculations as shown on page #3, and reverse the odds. Assume that the implied probability was 81.3% (market odds 1.23), and the true odds 78.7% (1.27).

      • TeckChuan
        15 June 2016 at 9:11 am #

        thank you very much. Ill look more into it.

        Where can I find total goal odds calculation in your web? Ive been looking into every article of yours but I can’t find any info regarding total goal calculation

      • TeckChuan
        15 June 2016 at 11:08 am #

        Dear soccer widow

        May I ask which parameter do you weight more before deciding to bet, value or hit rate?

        Your site has the most complete knowledge of value bets and probability that i can find.

        I have spent many days reading through all your articles. Still a lot to learn from you all.

        Thank you so much for your great effort.


        • Soccerwidow
          15 June 2016 at 11:55 am #

          I’m risk avers, so for me, the hit rate is more important.

          We have a nice saying in German: Kleinvieh macht auch Mist

          The literal translation is: Flock makes also muck. The meaning is that even small amounts add up to big piles. It’s about steadiness.

          I think the English proverb equivalent is: Many a little makes a mickle.

      • Teck chuan
        16 June 2016 at 1:18 am #

        Dear soccerwidow
        How about the hit rate of a lay bet ?

        Say Wales has a true odd of 8.33 to win, market odds is 6.2
        So lay bet value is 34% and hit rate of Wales not winning is 88%?

        Thanks a lot

        • Soccerwidow
          20 June 2016 at 8:39 am #


          The lay bet value is 34.35%, and the expected hit rate of Wales not winning 88%.

          By the way, the value here calculated is the expected Yield if bets like this are carried out over and over again.

  7. Pettersen123
    14 November 2016 at 12:40 pm #


    In your spreadsheet for U 3,5 goals you have a Value 1 = 25,3%, how did you calculate this?

    I tried with your method from page 3: (0,52 / 0,42) – 1 = 23,8%


    • Soccerwidow
      15 November 2016 at 6:15 pm #

      Hi Pettersen,

      the odds (1.42) shown in the spreadsheet originate from 70.67% converted into odds = 1.415028, and then rounded to 1.42 to be shown in the spreadsheet.

      The calculation is based on the 1.415028. Please try again, and you will see that it results in 25.3%.

      Remember as a general rule always to calculate with percentages, and not with odds.

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