I’ve always had reservations about following tipsters. So I set out to find the very best tipster service I could, and subscribed to it for a month. The aim was to establish whether or not my scepticism of tipster services was warranted, and to identify a genuine tipping service to recommend to the readers of Punter2Pro.
Things didn’t go well, to say the least. I quickly identified a tactic that many rogue tipster services use to fake their profit records in order to attract new subscribers.
Here’s a complete account of my experience…
What I Wanted From A Tipster Service
My chosen service had to meet a set of requirements. So I jotted down a list of everything that I wanted from my ‘perfect’ Tipping Service:
- Attractive, professional website
- Provides proof of winnings
- Positive reviews
- A sound, sensible concept
- No claims of “inside knowledge”
- A focus on value betting as opposed to “picking winners”
- An explanation as to why they sell tips if their selections are profitable
- A Reasonable subscription price
I’ve since compiled a more complete checklist in my more recent article: How to Avoid Bad Tipsters & Betting Scams. Following this will save you from an array of different betting scams, including dodgy tipsters.
Now, I wouldn’t have parted ways with any money whatsoever if the service didn’t, at the very least, meet all of these requirements. And to my amazement I found something that ticked every box, plus more.
One Service Looked & Sounded Great
I won’t name the service I chose — but it was established in the mid-noughties:
- It had a very neat website and login section for subscribing members.
- It came with a (limited) free trial showing historic races, which I thought was a pretty nice touch.
- The proof of winnings section was a little vague — but it presented some convincing profit records, and branded itself as an “investment opportunity” as opposed to gambling.
- At £40 per month for the basic subscription package, it wasn’t going to break the bank, either.
Even I had to admit that it looked decent. But I wasn’t completely satisfied yet, though.
I researched the company and their services. I couldn’t find too many customer reviews of the service — but the reviews I did find were all positive. Truthfully I liked that reviews were hard to find, as this gave the impression that members wanted to keep it on the down-low. Furthermore I discovered that its selections were supposedly “proofed” by the Racing Post, which sounded very impressive. Everything so far seemed legitimate.
Now for the all-important part: the concept, value, and the methodology behind the selections. Does it actually work?
I was looking to scrutinise this aspect of the service, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with how transparent everything appeared to be. The company didn’t try to use the strike rate as a smokescreen — a strategy often employed by Tipping Services to trick naïve bettors into thinking they’re subscribing to a profitable service (truth is, any of us can bet with a good strike rate by simply choosing low odds).
Crucially, I could tell that whoever had written the content for the website fully understood value betting and what it takes to earn long-term profits from horse racing. The FAQ section explained that their algorithms incorporated historical data and speed ratings in order to calculate what values they deem to be the “target odds” for each of their selections. By betting at these odds, or above them, customers are expected to return excellent profits. This was right up my street.
As I read on it continued to impress me. It had all the right answers to the questions I had in my head, such as:
1. Why should I believe these selections are profitable?
They explained that 75-80% of their selections contract (lessen) in price by the start of the race. While I was sceptical of this statistic, I reasoned that even if it were 60% it would be fantastic. Backing prices which shorten by the SP will make long-term profits, and I’ve proved this myself in my very thorough Guide To Beating The Closing Line.
2. How likely is it that I can bet on selections at the “Target Odds”?
They stated that the (highest paying) premium members obtain early access to the selections and therefore first dibs on the odds. Prices are expected to drop off a little by the time the lower-graded members come in. However, it explains that it is still very reasonable to achieve the target odds, regardless. So this was good news, too.
3. OK, OK… so why isn’t this firm just betting on the selections themselves? Why are they sharing them?!
This was the all important question. But they had the answer to that as well. They stated that they have capitalised on their betting system themselves and consequently had all of their betting accounts closed. It’s more profitable for them to sell tips nowadays.
Sure. I could just about buy into that idea.
This service certainly talked the talk. I decided it was worth a go.
My Experience & Findings
I was still sceptical but I maintained some level of hope: could this be a hidden gem that’s ignored because everyone assumes it’s too good to be true?
I just hoped that I would find either:
- Value bets which beat the SP and generate a profit, or even
- Odds that are so severely crushed by an influx of volume from customers following this service that the odds rapidly fall below their fair value.
In the latter case, the odds could be Layed on the betting exchange — the exact opposite of what the service encourages it’s customers to do, ironically.
I signed up and deposited the £40 subscription fee to gain instant access to the chosen tipster service. My first impression within the first few minutes of viewing the tips was: “the target odds are too low!”.
It was a little concerning to discover that selections with exchange odds of 17.0 would have “target odds” of around 4.0. This would imply that the exchange was offering abnormally excellent value, but I know it isn’t that simple to find value. Again and again the selections were very easy to back well above the “target odds” stated.
I could understand that the occasional discrepancy will occur between one’s calculated odds and the industry price — but there was an enormous difference on almost every selection. These markets weren’t lacking liquidity, either — they were well-formed, and likely to be relatively accurate.
I tried to make sense of it. I didn’t place any bets and instead requested past results from the service so that I could load it up in Excel and explore the data myself. The company were actually very helpful and sent over a spreadsheet of 365 days of tips. I began to investigate.
Stripping It Back In Excel
I used an Excel spreadsheet to analyse the data.
I had to make some changes to the data set. There were some rather unusual outliers at odds of 1000/1 which skewed the figures. These had to be disregarded because several of them were apparently winning bets. I was almost certain that those odds weren’t available anywhere to start with. And even if they were then there certainly wouldn’t have been as many winners as the spreadsheet suggested! It looked freaky, so I queried it and the company confirmed that the data defaulted to a value of 1000 whenever there was a “technical issue”.
Ok. Fine. No big deal.
Now that the data looked much cleaner, the next thing I did was produce a graph of the 365 days of betting. Here’s the result.
Backing all tips at the “target odds” using an equal stake of £50.
Backing all 27,130 tips at the “target odds” gave a total ROI of -35.4%.
Wow. I can safely say those target odds were not prices that I would ever base my bets around. As I suspected, the supposedly “smart, powerful and accurate” algorithm that the tipster’s website confidently boasted about was severely under-pricing horses.
My confidence in the service had been knocked, but I hadn’t lost all hope quite yet. Recorded within the same spreadsheet were more values named “best odds”. This was intriguing as perhaps these odds represented values that you could easily achieve on the selections provided. I graphed the result of using those odds instead.
Backing all tips at the “best odds” using an equal stake of £50.
Backing all 27,130 tips at the “best odds” gives a total ROI of +99.6%.
It was in confident profit this time — but I wasn’t excited. To put this bluntly: there’s no such thing as a 99.6% ROI in sports betting.
Looking at the graph I noticed there some pretty drastic vertical jumps in the total PnL. Check out those huge ones around 1/3 the way across. I needed to reduce the data set to see if I could make more sense of those results.
Manipulating The Data
It looked to me like there were some additional issues with the odds being incorrectly recorded. I appreciated that, occasionally, data collection tools fail; my feeling was that the odds were recorded using the Betfair API, and that it didn’t collect a realistic average price. This could’ve been due to poor market liquidity, or outsiders with insufficient volume.
The easiest way I could improve the quality of the data was to limit the odds I looked at. I hoped that this would concentrate the selections on the most popular outcomes of the race and reduce the likelihood of incorporating vastly incorrect prices. Plus I probably wouldn’t have bet at odds that were too high anyway. I decided a limit of 20.0 was suitable maximum price to cap the results at.
The data set was reduced to 22,286 bets as a result of the odds constraint. I believe this helped to rectify the problem, as the results appeared to be more realistic.
Backing all tips up to 20.0 at the “best odds” using an equal stake of £50.
Backing all 22,386 tips (up to 20.0) at the “best odds” gave a total ROI of +15.0%.
While I was still sceptical of 15% being achievable, I could (at least) believe that it’s possible.
So I’d established two things at this point:
- The “target odds” were useless. I didn’t want to be Backing anywhere near those values (unless I’m aiming to lose money).
- The “best odds” are great. I wanted to be backing as close to those values as I possibly could.
So What Are These Mystical “Best Odds”?
I asked the tipster service this question over email. I received a quick reply stating that the “best odds” were the highest values available from any time up until the race starts.
This concerned me.
Bettors can’t possibly detect the best odds on the lead up to a sports event. If that were possible, then we would all be very rich from sports betting. Nonetheless, I wanted follow these tips hands-on. Perhaps I was missing something.
How Feasible Is It To Achieve The 15% ROI?
That’s the key question I set out to answer. I just needed to know how challenging those “best odds” were to find. I knew that even if I were able to achieve close to the “best odds”, then I would be confident that I was onto something pretty special.
To find out once and for all if this service worked, I recorded approximately 500 “mock” bets into a spreadsheet to reach my final verdict.
It didn’t make money.
It appeared to be breaking even. But I decided not to waste any more of my time because I had already reached a conclusion on my findings. Here’s a summary of the results:
- The “Best odds” are impossible to regularly obtain. You simply cannot know whether the price you back will turn out to be the best price by the time the race begins.
- The service misleads customers with it’s Profit/Loss records. By assuming the “best odds”, the figures aren’t representative of what’ll happen in real life. Customers will never be able to achieve those results.
- The average odds achieved do not significantly beat the Closing Line. In my 500 “mock” bets, I averaged 101% of SP. This is to say that the odds I averaged were almost the same value as those offered at SP. There’s no value in betting at these odds.
To make matters worse I noticed that the members area of the service includes a lot of affiliate links to Bookmakers. Of course it does — because it’ll earn the service a rake-back when their customers inevitably lose money by following their tips!
Last Try: Is It Possible to Lay at The “Target Odds”?
I wondered about Laying at those poor “target odds”. Is there a profitable Laying strategy buried among the distorted figures?
Unfortunately the answer was no.
Hardly any of the selections fell to values as low as the under-valued “target odds” — so there was no opportunity for a profitable Lay betting strategy based around the selections.
Therefore I can conclude that this service was, most definitely, a complete waste of money.
What Did I Learn?
Apart from reinforcing the fact that not all tipsters can be trusted, the lesson to take away is that stats are often misleading.
Just because odds were valuable at some point in time doesn’t mean you we be able to obtain them and make a profit. By publishing ‘peak’ odds, this service tricks customers into thinking their selections are profitable when they certainly aren’t.
I’ve written an entire article about the trustworthiness of tipsters where I’ve listed the dangers/flaws in following their selections, I highly recommend reading it, as well as my list of the Best Sports Betting Tipster Sites Sites. It might save you a lot of time, inconvenience and money!
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Good you checked everything rather than blindly betting. Crazy they’re allowed to sell it as being ‘profitable’.
If they advertised it as a horse racing database or form guide then it would be fine. But they actually posted up graphs of results over a year. The results look amazing because they’ve cherry picked excellent odds which occurred throughout the day.
Hi Toby, I recognise the service you describe, your post confirmed by suspicions, and allowed me to give up researching it earlier than I would have otherwise.
The web site is very slick, with a convincing back story and published results, the classic too good to be true, but digging slightly deeper and doing some approximate maths it is not quiet as shiney.
To break even with their most proffitable method needs horses to average odds of about 5.62 (straight back bets on about 3 horses per race, with about one winner every 2nd race). To achieve their stated ROI of 16%ish needs average odds of about 6.54
I paper traded for 5 days, and found that achieving their “best odds” was just not realistic, even with the golden 8.30pm early access to their tips.
As you say, its easy to get a good strike rate, but really difficult to get odds that offer value on whatever strike rate your getting.
This post saved me a lot of time, and overal your web site is a brilliant resource. Thank you.