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Betting on athletics has several pros and cons and it’s important to know what you are getting into before having a dabble. There has never been a better time in history if this is your thing though because, with the London Olympics firmly on the radar, bookmakers across the land are beginning to stride out into the brave world of athletics betting!
For the bookmaker, athletics is generally a pretty low turnover sport and relatively few firms offer anything greater than the absolute basic markets. Whilst you’ll find a decent number of firms offering odds on the Men’s 100m, once you head towards the lower profile disciplines, the range of bookmakers, competitiveness of pricing, and breadth of markets falls away rapidly. The Olympics will certainly change this and with it bring plenty of opportunities.
Most bookmakers don’t have a dedicated athletics compiler, and instead rely on a trader with a passing interest in the sport pricing up the events alongside other more important duties. The turnover and profit just aren’t there to warrant a fully focussed individual, and it’s an area the bookie has traditionally struggled to make a profit from as a result. That can only be good news for us.
Form lines - usually the bookmaker’s closest ally – simply cannot be trusted in athletics, with some participants looking to peak for certain events and not always giving their absolute max at the less important events. The Diamond League events however are regular and with decent prize money on offer, particularly for record breakers, most participants can be expected to be somewhere towards the top of their game more often than not. There are 14 Diamond League meetings held between May and September, and they allow those wishing to bet on athletics a pretty reliable form line and betting opportunity. You should be aware that prices are usually only available on these events on the day.
Athletics events often see heavy odds-on favourites and bookmakers have reacted to this in two ways. The first is to offer the favourite “against the field”. This means that you can bet on either the named favourite to win the given event, or on the “field” which includes all the other athletes collectively – effectively betting on the favourite not to win.
The second avenue the bookmakers go down is to offer match bets between two competitors. These will be called “Head to Heads” or “Match Betting”, and will typically involve fairly equally matched participants. Betting on these markets allows you to either back your fancy, or oppose another runner whom you believe may have been overrated by the bookmaker.
When the absolute top athletes are in action, you may also be able to place bets on World Records being broken and, during the bigger events, on whether athletes win medals in their events – effectively podium betting.
Under the athletics betting umbrella, bookmakers will typically cover both Men’s and Women’s track events, ranging from the 100m, up to the 5000m events, and even marathon’s on some occasions. They will also cover the field events, such as the high jump, long jump and triple jump, as well as throwing disciplines such as javelin, discuss and shot.
When placing your bets always remember that in outright betting the start time bookmakers set may be earlier than the final, allowing any heats to take place. During this period, all betting is suspended as the bookmakers’ assess the results of the heats, including any injury to one or more competitors.
With the Olympics on the horizon, bookmakers will certainly be pushing the boundaries in the run up to the games, so it’s likely to produce one or two value opportunities as they operate somewhat outside their comfort zones. Look out for our thoughts in the build-up as we ato identify some trends and patterns that could lead us to much welcomed profits!