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Starting Price Bets Explained

Published on: 19/08/2011

When wagering on sports and competitions such as horse or dog racing, bettors have lots of options or “markets.” The odds that bookmakers offer on these markets can fluctuate, sometimes quite wildly, between the initial opening time and the time the event actually starts. This can be a cause of concern, because bettors obviously want to get the best price available for their wagers and it is difficult to know exactly when to make the bet.

The Starting Price Bet, or soc-called SP Bet, is one popular way to get a fair price for a market. Just as its name indicates, this is a wager made at the market price at the time the event begins, after which no more bets are permitted. In the case of horse races, for example, the Starting Price of each entry is equal to the officially posted odds representing the on-course fixed-odds betting market at the time the race commences.

Racecourses use different calculations for setting the Starting Prices. One common method is to use “SP reporters” who are appointed to a panel that determines prices by consensus. They base their decisions upon observations of fluctuating prices at the racecourse.

In the U.K., the SP at the start of each race is an average of the prices offered by on-course bookmakers. Whether wagers are made trackside, at betting shops or online, the SP Bet will be based on this price and the resulting the payout must be made at the official rate as announced.

It is important to note that Starting Price betting does not apply in any way whatsoever to Tote or pool betting. In both those types of wagers, the return is based strictly upon the bets received. The “tote” dividends are calculated mechanically with the “totalisator,” a special computer that totals up all the bets and divides the resulting amount among those who won. The totalisator also goes by the name pari-mutuel machine, totaliser or totalizator.

There is no way of knowing exactly what the odds will be at the precise moment when the SP is set. For this reason, Stating Price betting has certain inherent advantages and disadvantages. The SP payout is almost always higher or lower than the ante post fixed odds offered on the market, so choosing a winner from a field of competitors as much as a month, six months, or even a year in advance offers both risks and rewards compared to SP betting.

On the other hand, if there are no early fixed odds available for a given event, SP betting may be the only viable option available. There are also times when odds are trending upward, so wagering on the SP may return greater odds than early prices or the Tote board odds displayed at the racecourse.

One way in which bookmakers attempt to attract more bettors to ante post wagers is by offering “best odds guaranteed.” In such cases, the payout will be either the fixed odds to which the bettor has agreed in advance or the Starting Price, whichever is the higher of the two. This mitigates some of the risk in making early picks.

As an example, if an ante post price of 9/2 is taken and the selected entry comes in at an SP of 5/1, a £2 bet will pay £10 not £9. On the other hand, if 5/1 is taken ante post and the winner pays 9/2 as the Starting Price, the payout will still be “best odds guaranteed” or £10 on a £2 wager.

One other aspect of SP Bets to keep in mind is how Starting Prices are set by betting exchanges. Betfair, for example, is the world’s largest betting exchange Their SP is no based on trackside odds. Instead, it is a function of the number of backers and layers in a given market, similar to the Tote.

Unlike the odds-making techniques used by bookmakers, which includes vigorish or juice, there is no margin for profit built into the betting exchange prices. The Betfair SP is determined only by balancing bets from customers who choose to back and lay at Starting Price. The SP is announced immediately after a market goes live.

Published on: 19/08/2011 © Bet Bind
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