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An interesting situation arose during the 2010 World Cup, which made me think of writing about the dead heat rules.
The Dead Heat Rules
Most events can go to a dead heat or tie unless the market involves a draw option, and even then in cricket a draw is not the same as a tie. In general dead heats in simple markets such as horse races, match winner and so on are settled the same way at Betfair as they are at the bookie, ie they divide your stake by the number of dead heaters, and pay out at the full odds you took on the proportion of the stake that won. The remainder of your stake loses.
eg if you back a horse for £10 at 7.0 and it dead heats with another, your return will be £5 x 7 = £35 including stake, for your original £10 bet.
As a punter, if you bet odds on and there is a dead heat you will lose money:
eg for a 2-way dead heat £10 at 1.8 becomes £5 x 1.8 = £9 return so you have lost £1 on the original bet.
Clearly the more dead heaters there are, the more likely it is that your returns will not cover your original stake.
For the matched bettor or arber, apart from puzzlement at the size and exact amount of the returns (which is not at all obvious if you don’t know the formula or are unaware of a dead heat), you should find that you don’t make any loss, since Betfair apply the same formula. You will probably make less profit than you would have done from a full stake though.
So all of that is very straightforward, and what’s the problem?
When is a Dead Heat not a Dead Heat?
As is often the case, while the general rule covers most eventualities, there are exceptions.
The situations where you are most likely to run into difficulties with the dead heat rules are markets on events where there must be a single winner.
While it is acceptable to have 2 horses winning a race, it is not acceptable to have 2 football teams winning the world cup, or joint winners of the Open Golf. There are surprisingly large numbers of competitions which go to penalties/play offs or some other method of determining an outright winner. It is at this point that the problem starts, because the bookies and Betfair have 3 options – settle as a dead heat, void the market, and settle on the official winner.
Voiding is only likely on 2-way markets (where the issue is whether or not the market included overtime) – you should always be certain when you bet on such markets that overtime is treated the same at the bookie as at Betfair, and this varies slightly from sport to sport. 2-way markets will never be treated as a dead heat. Some obscure foreign bookies might treat markets with more runners as a “push” if there is a dead heat before an outright winner is determined, but this is rare.
Cricket is an exception to all other rules as far as the tie goes, with a multitude of different possibilities depending on the bookie and what sort of cricket match it is. Most bookies (but not all) settle ties as dead heats or draws. Betfair have a separate tie market and always void the tie, regardless of any bowl out or other method of deciding the winner. Ties are exceptionally rare in Test matches, fairly rare in ODI matches, but not that uncommon in Twenty20 matches. Remember that if Betfair void and the bookie settles as a dead heat, you will lose money if your bet was odds on.
Betfair is reasonably easy. In the rules tab on the right hand side of every market, they tell you the rules for that market. In the general rules it says:
Unless stated otherwise in the Specific Sports Rules and/or the Market Information the Dead Heat Rule applies to bets on a market where there are more winners than expected (as set out in the Market Information).
So almost always Betfair will settle as a dead heat, and if they don’t, it will tell you. This can sting you on markets such as leading jockey, top goalscorer etc, where Betfair might settle as a dead heat on number of wins, goals etc, while some bookies may go for the result after other factors are taken into account (eg number of places, or, as in the World Cup golden boot, number of “assists”).
What happened in the World Cup was slightly more complicated than this, and earned place on the back page of the Racing Post for the confusion it caused. The essence was that bookies offered a combined market, Team to win and Player for top goalscorer. For the bet to win you needed to get both right. However, there were 4 joint top goalscorers, and the bookies treated the whole market as a 4-way dead heat. At the odds available this meant that punters who backed Spain to win and Villa to be top scorer won LESS than those who backed the much easier single bet for Spain to win. The anomaly arose because bookies treated the whole bet as a 4-way dead heat, not just the goalscorer part. Bet365, Hills, Ladbrokes and Tote adjusted things so that people were paid at least as much as for Spain alone, but this only created more confusion.
In addition some of the bookies settled top goalscorer as a win for Muller (who won the Golden Boot), while Betfair settled on the 4-way dead heat. Great if you backed Muller, but far from great if you backed one of the others, as both halves of the bet lost.
In almost any “outright” type market where a single winner will be found, it is essential to check rules at the bookies for this sort of thing before you bet. The more complicated the market (eg multiples or bets that depend on 2 things happening) the more scope there is for hidden rules differences.
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