An Overview of If Offer Strategies
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Explanation and strategies for if offers:
IF Strategy – offers which can be matched for a guaranteed profit
If Something Loses – Offers where you need to back the if event at Betfair.
ARBING strategy – offers which have no if market at Betfair.
All if offers are Risk category B – low risk if you can find suitable odds.
If offers seem to cause a huge amount of confusion, which is a pity as they are probably the commonest offers for existing customers.
If you don’t understand my ramblings, there is an article written by Darren Hall here and a video here – both of these concentrate on the IF strategy below.
Darren’s spreadsheet (used in the video) is here ifoffers and the spreadsheet I use below is here matcherforifoffers.
Most if offers are best thought of as 2 bets – a qualifier and an if bet. The loss amount on the qualifying bet is the stake on the if bet. Crucially the qualifier must not be on an outcome which would trigger the if refund (eg on the draw for a refund if 0-0).
Many bookmakers do this type of offer on football and other sports The refund is usually (but not always) on a high odds market such as correct score, first goalscorer etc. In general, the lower the odds on the qualifying market and particularly the lower the odds of the “if” event, the more likely you are to be able to make a profit.
Refund if the match ends 0-0.
Refund if Rooney sores the last goal.
Refund if the match goes to penalties.
Refund if the first goal is a header.
There are also a multitude of horse racing offers that are of this type, often refunds for finishing 2nd with added conditions.
There are 3 questions you need to ask yourself when you see one of these.
1. Is the market they are refunding (eg first goalscorer) available on Betfair with reasonable liquidity?
If no, stop. The offer is not worth bothering about or can’t be matched at all.
2. Is there a market for the “if” condition (eg the 0-0) on Betfair?
If yes, this can potentially be matched for a guaranteed profit without an arb. Use IF strategy.
If no, you need an arb to make a guaranteed profit on this offer – use Arbing strategy.
3. Are the odds close enough for a profit?
Unfortunately the answer to this question is often “no”.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO NOTE
You must choose a qualifier which cannot happen at the same time as the if event. So if the refund is of losing anytime goalscorer bets if Man Utd win 1-0, then you can’t do the offer on Rooney to score if he is playing for Man Utd. Beware that quite often the closest match on the market will be the one thing you can’t get a refund for.
Make sure that you have every eventuality covered. For example a refund if the match goes to penalties can’t be matched out with the draw, because a win in extra time is not covered.
Type 1 – IF Strategy
With these offers you are matching out for an equal profit whatever happens, the value of the free bet is included in the calculations.
These are offers with a market for the if event on Betfair. Examples include refunds if the score is 0-0 (or any other specific score with a unique scoreline on Betfair, ie 4-0 would not count because its part of any unquoted), Player x scores the first goal or scores any time (but not the last goal, unless there is a last goalscorer market) and the very occasional refund if a specific selection loses.
The way to think of these is as 2 bets – a qualifier and a free bet. So for an offer which refunded losing first goalscorer bets if the score was 0-0, you would place a back and lay on the qualifier in the first goalscorer market for a loss, then place a lay only on the 0-0, treating the loss on the first goalscorer market as your free bet stake.
There is a spreadsheet matcherforifoffers available for calculating the stakes and returns on these offers, which was written for the rather special “Dunguib offer” that Paddy Power did at Cheltenham. The top part of the spreadsheet deals with the qualifier, and the bottom part with the if offer “free bet” part.
All you need to do is check the commission rate is correct in both boxes (circled in orange), enter the back and lay odds and the lay odds for the if event, the back stake and refund amounts (all circled in blue), and read off the profit/loss at the bottom (circled in green). If that is red, the offer makes a loss. The Dunguib offer was brilliant because even though the odds on the best match (Get Me Out Of Here) were quite poor, the if event (refund if Dunguib won) was a short price.
TIP you can do a quick check to see if there is any profit in the offer by entering just the back and lay odds for the qualifier into the spreadsheet for your commission rate. If the figure circled in red (“odds for if event”) at the bottom of the first part of the spreadsheet makes an arb with the available lay odds then you will be able to make a profit. In the Dunguib example, the presence of the refund effectively created a 2.75/2.06 arb on Dunguib.
The spreadsheet works for any if offer with a market to lay at Betfair, but it does not work if your initial qualifying bet is an arb. If you want to match out an arb for equal profit with one of these offers, all you need to do is to add the arb profit to the refund, and play with the what if figures on the if market until you are happy with the results.
Correct Score Refund
The easiest of these offers to understand is the correct score refund, where the refund is on the same market as the if event.
Current real example: Paddy Power will refund ALL losing correct Score, 1st/last Goalscorer & Scorecast singles on any match that finishes 0-0. Max refund £100 per customer. Applies to today’s Man U v Newcastle Premiership match (Mon 16 Aug 2010)
Look at the Correct Score markets:
The best match available here is a rather poor 5.5/6.6 on 2-0, and the odds on the IF event (0-0) are high at 23. It is unlikely that there will be any profit in this offer today. Using the spreadsheet we find, after typing in £100 for the bet stake and refund, back odds of 5.5, lay odds of 6.6 and if odds of 23 with 5% commission, this offer returns a loss of £16.09 – very poor indeed. In order for us to make any profit at the current odds on 2-0 we would need the 0-0 to be somewhere around 4.7 to lay.
In the following hypothetical example I have chosen lay odds at Betfair of 5.7 and odds of only 11 for the 0-0. This shows how hard it is to squeeze any meaningful profit out of these offers if the odds are fairly high.
You can see that here we are looking for odds for 0-0 which make an arb with 13.29 and odds of 11 would give a profit of £1.15 over the whole offer whatever the result.
First Goalscorer Refund
One word of warning about goalscorer offers – do leave them until the teams are known, otherwise you could find your bet is voided at Betfair if the player doesn’t play, but some of the bookies may have an all in play or not rule.
Stan James currently have an offer on all major football matches where they refund all goalscorer bets if the match ends 0-0. The max refund on this offer is £250. Here you need to look at the odds on 2 markets at Betfair – first goalscorer (or anytime scorer) and correct score. These are the fgs markets on the same Man Utd match:
Here we have Rooney as the best match at 3.75/4.1 (Apologies for the fractional odds – I had to take the screenshot in a hurry as it was KO time!). Once again we have the problem of the high odds around 23 for 0-0 (see above). The spreadsheet shows that this is not going to make us a profit at the available odds:
For almost any if offer where there is a market for the if event at Betfair, you use one of these 2 methods – either one market at the bookie and one at Betfair (as for the correct score refund and the Dunguib examples) or one at the bookie and 2 at Betfair (as in the first goalscorer example). The only exceptions are the fairly rare occasions when the wording of the offer means that you have to back instead of lay the if event (see below) – this will usually be for a refund if something doesn’t happen.
If Something Loses
Just occasionally you get an if offer which has a market on Betfair, but because of the wording of the offer, you have to back the if event, not lay it. An example of this might be in Formula 1 – Refund of outright bets if your driver fails to finish the race. In this case you would use the top part of the spreadsheet to work out the loss on the qualifier, then you would use the “to be classified” market at Betfair for the if part. The to be classified market is for the driver to finish, and the refund is if the driver does not finish, so you need to BACK the driver on the to be classified market. Your back stake needs to be smaller than the refund minus the loss on the qualifier, and your profit needs to be big enough to cover the loss on the qualifier.
If you find an if offer where the odds on the if event seem very short and it looks like you will make a large profit, ask yourself if you are laying when you should be backing the if event. If it looks too good to be true it probably is, unless it is a very special event like the Dunguib offer at Cheltenham.
TYPE 2 – ARBING Strategy
With these offers the strategy is to take a small loss or very insignificant profit on the qualifying bet. The value of the free bet is not included in the calculations and therefore you end up with a large profit if the if event happens, to more than compensate for various small losses when it doesn’t.
The vast majority of the horse racing if offers and a large number of the others fall into this category – there simply isn’t a market for the if event on Betfair. I’m sure the bookies do this on purpose.
Really the only thing you can do with these is try to find a position where you make no loss or very little loss on the qualifier and a big profit if the if event happens. The most obvious way to do this is to find an arb, but arbs at the bookie who is doing the offer are very rare, although they can happen in fast moving pre-race horse markets.
There are 2 things you can do to try to reduce the loss on the qualifier. One is to find an arb on the same selection at another bookie, and trade off some or all of the arb profit for a chance of a big gain. The other is to try to find as many arbs as possible on other selections in the same market. If one of these wins you will save commission on your losing bets. This gives you a bit of leeway because if your qualifier loses you won’t pay commission on it if you have a winner in the same market, and you may collect saved commission from other losing bets too. There is always the possibility that something you didn’t back wins though, unless you manage to cover the whole field (unlikely).
Everyone is different, and the amount you are prepared to trade off against the possibility of a refund will vary from person to person. My own policy (on the horse offers) was to take a smallish bet (say £25) at no worse than level odds, and lay £25 for no loss if the bet won and a loss of commission if it lost. Then if it was 2nd to the horse in the next stall or whatever the if offer was, I got a nice £25 free bet on top.
Many arbers treat the type 1 if offers in this way too, believing that it is better value to get the occasional big win than to waste money laying and paying commission at high odds on the if event. This is very likely a correct assumption, since at high odds laying comes expensive. It also takes a great deal less time than faffing about with spreadsheets, and you can dismiss offers pretty quickly with a single glance if there are no close odds.
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