What Is The Starting Price In Betting? — The SP Explained

SP is an abbreviation for ‘Start Price’ or ‘Starting Price’. When a bettor takes the SP, they agree to accept the Starting Price — the price a horse (or greyhound) goes off at when the race begins — rather than the current one. This is useful when there are no early fixed odds available, or if the bettor believes the SP will offer greater odds than early prices.

The term “Starting Price” can be used as a more general term for the final pre-event price — also known as the “Closing Line“.


How The Starting Price Is Set

The method by which SPs are set for each runner varies in different countries.

Traditionally in the UK SP’s have been determined by a panel of officials at the racecourse, based on the average odds quoted by on-course fixed-odds bookmakers. When there are no on-course bookmakers at the track an official body (The Starting Price Regulatory Commission) will calculate the SP using a sample list of online bookmakers.

Calculating this SP using this traditional method does not directly account for volumes of bets placed on the selection off-course — i.e. in betting shops and online — and has sparked a lot of debate across the industry as to whether the prices are really representative for each horse’s chance of winning.

But with race attendance numbers dwindling, and online betting accounting for the majority of stakes place on racing, the Starting Price now closely follows the odds on the betting exchange. The Starting Prices on the Betfair exchange — known as the BSP — are determined by the market, which is made up of bettors wanting to either to Back or Lay an outcome. Due to the fact there is no margin for profit built into the prices, you are more likely to find a better, and more accurate, representation of the Starting Price on the exchange than at the bookies.


Significance Of The Starting Price

The Starting Price marks the final pre-race point: where the market is formed, and the most amount money has been matched on the betting exchanges before going inplay. This is significant because at this moment the odds incorporate all the opinions of the public — both retail and professional — from the lead up to the race.

The smart, professional money enters the betting exchanges late on (in the final 30 minutes before the race), meaning the odds become increasingly accurate before the off. The spreads become tighter during this period; the Back and Lay odds closely-align with one other. The market is busy, highly competitive and ‘tight’. At this point the market forms accurate probabilities for horses to win the race.

Therefore it’s hard to find value from the SP — because the public has eliminated most, or all, of the inaccurate “value” prices that you’d want to take.


Beating The Starting Price

Indeed the odds change dramatically throughout the day before the start of a race. Large fluctuations can be observed both early and late on, before odds inevitably settle at values that are approximately “fair”. Therefore if we compare our price to the SP we’ll get an idea of how good or bad the value in our bet was.

In general:

  • If the Starting Price is greater than your price, then you have failed to find a value bet (but Best Odds Guaranteed helps to soften the blow. Read on to learn more.)
  • If the Starting Price is lower than your price, then you have found  a value bet. This is known as “Beating the SP” or “Beating the Closing Line”.

So the SP can be used to check whether your selection criteria, betting system, tipster or other method is finding value or not.

Learn more about beating the Starting Price and the importance it has for sports betting profitability.


Best Odds Guaranteed

Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) is a promotion offered by many bookmakers. It boosts the profits of bets taken at odds below the SP.

So, if you take a price on a horse and the Starting Price (SP) is bigger, then the BOG bookmaker will pay you out at the bigger odds.

For Example:

  • If you take a price of 4/1 and the selection wins with an SP of 5/1, they’ll pay you at 5/1
  • If you take a price of 4/1 and the selection wins with an SP of 3/1, they still pay you at 4/1

With BOG bettors are sure to save more money than they would without it.

BOG is not provided by betting exchanges — which is one reason why many racing bettors remain loyal to bookmakers despite them having lower odds.

Learn more: Why Use Bookmakers Instead of The Exchange?

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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