Using Recent Form To Select Bets

Guest post written by Ricky Dowling

Using the long term stats and history of a team is a great way of selecting bets, it provides insight into a teams abilities, strengths and weaknesses over time within a given tournament.  This approach can however be a time consuming task and many people like to go with their gut instinct, using their knowledge of a teams recent form to predict an outcome.

This article will focus on recent form and how much success or failure it yields when picking wins.

Firstly, by recent form I mean the past 5 – 8 matches, you may have a different definition but for the purpose of this article I will be looking at how a team has performed over the past 8 matches.

Secondly I will be focusing on home wins, not to say you shouldn’t bet on away wins (you will find better odds there) but a home win is a far more likely outcome and provides a good basis for this discussion.

Looking back at the 2010/2011 English Premier League season there were 55 fixtures in which the home team had won 5 or more of their past 8 matches (prior to the fixture).  Of those 55 fixtures 38 were won by the home team, that’s a solid 69% success rate when backing the home team for a win.

This looks like a great starting point so lets consider how much would have been won or lost if backing the home win.  If you had backed each game at level stakes at the maximum odds available pre-match, you would have made 5% return on your investment.  Not bad for a selection method that would have taken less than a minute

Now apply the same logic to the English Championship for the same season and the results are as follows: 72 fixtures that fit the criteria, but only 32 home wins, that a success rate of just 44% and a loss of 14% on your investment.

Finally apply the approach to the top 4 tiers of English football combined and the results are as follows: 274 fixtures that fit the criteria, 145 home wins, 52% success and a loss of 4% on your investment.

Now a 52% success rate on home win selections isn’t bad, so why the loss?  This method of selecting bets has so far not taken into account the odds available to bet at.  With 52% success you need to be betting at odds of even or better to turn a profit.

So as with the previous examples, if you add a criterion that you only bet on games with odds of even or better the results are as follows:

Premiership – 10 games, 4 wins, 40% success, 7% return on investment

Championship – 29 games, 11 wins, 37% success, 9% loss

Top 4 tiers combined – 98 games, 39 wins, 39% success, 5% loss

With the exception of the Premier league alone, we still have a loss.  The problem is that this approach has eliminated the highly likely home wins (those with odds of less than even) but it hasn’t eliminated fixtures where a home win is highly unlikely.  With no disrespect to Wigan, if they were home to Man Utd you would probably want to give that bet a miss, even though the odds of a home win would surely be better than even.

So in the real world you are back to using instinct and personal opinion to select bets that you consider to have a likely outcome of a home win.  You might look at the form of the away side or base your selection on your experience of watching the 2 side play other teams or each other.

For the purpose of testing I’m going to defer to the bookmakers opinion on what is the likely outcome.  I’m going to add an additional filter that I will only bet on home teams whose odds across a sample of bookmakers is less than 2.3 (a figure I feel still represents a likely outcome).  The outcomes are as follows:

Premiership – 2 games, 1 wins, 50% success, 0% return on investment

Championship – 18 games, 6 wins, 33% success, 28% loss

Top 4 tiers  – 63 games, 28 wins, 44% success, 2% loss

The sample is a lot smaller but the overall outcome is in keeping with the previous results.

This begs the question “what should I be looking for when making my selections?”.  To make a profit you do need to consider how the team has performed over time, not just over the last couple of games, runs of good form are great if you catch them at the right time but with the exception of some of the top teams, the runs often end.

Things to consider when making selections:

How has team performed over time – is this consistent with their recent form?

How many goals does the team score on average?  How does this compare to the number they concede?

How does the team fair at home compared to away?

How do the 2 competing teams stats stack up?  Does one score or concede substantially more or less than the other?

Let’s take the original selection method based on recent form as a way to quickly pick potential bets (disregarding the odds criteria) then consider how goals scored by opposing teams can be used to filter these selections to produce profitable bets.

The following shows the outcomes where the home team has won 5 from last 8 and has, on average, scored at least twice as many goals at home as the away team has scored away.  The average is based on the 12 months prior to the fixture.

Premiership – 30 games, 23 wins, 76% success, 3% return on investment

Championship – 13 games, 8 wins, 61% success, 10% return on investment

Top 4 tiers  – 71 games, 47 wins, 66% success, 2.5% return on investment

So this additional filter based on how a team has performed over time has resulted in profitable selections over the season in question.

In conclusion, recent form is a good starting point for selecting bets but without further insight into the 2 teams and sensible betting with respect to the odds available, you are likely to make a loss in the long term.  There is a wealth of statistical information available on the internet, it can sometimes be time consuming but in the end doing your home work may just pay off!

Side note.  As the sample that included odds filters (2 =< odds <2.3) was so small I have applied the selection methods to a number of leagues to see what the outcome would be, with the following leagues combined:

England – Premiership, Championship,1,2, Conference

Scotland – Premiership,1,2 , 3

Germany – Bundesliga 1, 2

Italy – Serie A, B

Spain – La Liga Prem, Segunda

France – Le Championnat, Division 2

Netherlands – Eredivisie

Belgium – Jupiler League

Portugal – Liga I

Turkey – Ligi 1

Greece – Ethniki

The results were are follows:

Recent form only – 1134 games, 649 wins, 57% success, 1% loss

Odds of even or better filter – 364 games, 144 wins, 39% success, 2% loss

Odds of less than 2.3 filter – 204 games, 92 wins, 45% success, 1% loss

The results for the final method that included home goals scored vs away goals scored were as follows:

Home scored Avg > (away scored Avg * 2) – 383 games, 269 wins, 70% success, 1.5% return

Ricky relies on facts and figures to find his selections using a knowledge of player, team and league statistics. Having had to visit multiple websites to get the information he started to compile his own statistics which led to the creation of his website

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.
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