I have set myself a goal of turning $20 into $1000 through sportsbetting. This is an aside from the Champ Bros syndicate, which is travelling quite nicely in 2015 btw. The idea is that if I can successfully achieve this, then I could theoretically turn $200 into $10k, and then $2000 into $100k. The % growth is all the same, it’s just the numbers get bigger by a factor of 10 each scenario. So even though the betting amounts are quite small in these examples, I am looking to the big picture where I could duplicate these strategies with higher stakes in the future.

I started this challenge by depositing $20 into my Bet365 a/c on Saturday 18th April, and have not made any further deposits. Currently the balance is $146 with some bets pending. My strategy is to only place ‘good bets’, where the odds exceed the number of outcomes, and I have also been dabbling in the upset theory again, especially with the tennis.

During the last 3 weeks I have also come to the conclusion that the ‘low ball’ strategy is the best approach to maintain my balance and see it grow slowly over time. This is a poker term for someone who likes to keep the pots small and chip away at their opponents, especially in a heads up situation where there are only 2 players. The theory is you won’t be committing chips into big pots and gambling on outcomes, but instead you believe you can outplay your opponent over time, so you keep the pots small, minimise your losses and eventually win all your opponents chips through superior play and forcing them into making mistakes. How I’ve adapted this idea is to place lots of smaller bets with the aim of making small profits that outweigh the small losses if the bet doesn’t win. Inside this I have also been using combo bets within my selections, which reduces the amount I can win if all the legs happen to get up, but it also is more likely to ensure a return even if I miss a few legs of either small profit or small loss.

E.g. If I pick 6 AFL games over a weekend that I like the lines for when pushed out to 2-1, I might group them into doubles or trebles depending on how likely I think the teams will go. With 6 games into doubles, there are 15 combinations. With 6 games into trebles, there are 20 combinations.

If I was willing to stake $5 for this bet, then I would place .33c on each double or 0.25c on each treble. The sports bet websites and apps are set up now so this easily done by choosing the combo bet you want and the amount you want to stake so you don’t have manually make each bet.

If I happen to miss a leg or two out of these games, I will still make some money or incur a small lose, and I will only get zero return if I get fewer results than the combo I chose, which hasn’t happened yet. It is a conservative approach to gambling, but I am patient and so far I have been very happy to see my $20 investment slowly grow.

The other interesting option I have been exploiting is the new ‘Cash Out’ feature all the sites are offering now. Once you have a few legs of your multi in the bag, you will see that your cash out option will usually be higher than your starting stake, so you have already made a profit if you choose to end your bet there. A few times I have cashed out early and maximised my return, as I didn’t like my chances with the outcomes of the other matches, and if those games went against me the return would have dropped to less than what I staked originally, whereas the cash out option guaranteed me a profit. This works especially well with the upset theory in tennis.

E.g. I have been backing the upset in tennis for short priced favourites. After watching the results for a few weeks it became apparent that there are many upsets in the tennis, even at the odds of 1.10 for the favourite. It was something that I explored a few years ago when I got fed up with my short priced tennis multis getting smashed by one of the odds on favs getting beat nearly every single multi.

The bet on the tennis I made the other day highlighted how a smart use of the cash out option made me a tidy profit.

I chose 5 matches and got the odds of 5.50, 4.00, 5.00, 6.50 and 4.00. I don’t really care who is playing or where, I just look for odds of 4-1 and over in the available games. I staked $5 on 10 x doubles of .50c each. The first 2 results I got happened to be both wins and the 3^{rd} game was underway but not looking good as my player was a set down but had broken serve in the 2^{nd} set. I was still in a great position though with 2 wins on the board, where the 5.50 and the 4.00 underdogs had both got up. Bet 365 was offering me cash out of around $21 at this point. I thought this was great, and here’s why. I had already made $11 I couldn’t lose (5.5 x 4 x .5), so if I let the matches play out this is what I would pocket regardless of the remaining results. I had already made a profit on my $5 investment. If I happened to get one more leg, I would then have 3 x doubles combos and over $30. As I watched the current game unfold it looked more likely that my player was going to lose, and literally after each point the cash out figure was dropping. I cashed in and got $20.10. Now I might have missed out on a potentially bigger payout, but I had also nearly doubled my worst case scenario regardless of the remaining outcomes, and it was this factor that I found most appealing. In these types of bets I only need 2 upsets to make a profit and that’s all I expect with such short priced favs. As it turned out the remaining favs all won easily and my decision to exit at this point was a sound one.

The aspect of my strategy that this highlighted the most is DON’T GET GREEDY, as greed leads to poor decision making.

I have also been using the cash out option to get some money back on bets where I would have ended up with a zero return. I’ll take the small loss at the risk of some massive turn around in the match were the team I chose comes back to win, as this rarely happens.

Remember Low Ball; small bets, small wins and even smaller losses over time equals a growing profit.

I am also using another simple staking approach that I learnt from successful poker pro Erik Seidel. Seidel used to be a backgammon champion, and he then worked in the stock market before turning to poker. What he learnt from his time trading on the share market he adapted to poker with a simple premise; how much should I invest in this hand? If it was a hand with a low chance of winning, he would want to invest less in it, whereas if he had a good starting hand, he would be willing to invest more in it. With this in mind, generally I am going to be investing less on bets that have less chance of winning and conversely I can risk a bit more on bets that I think are a good chance of making me a profit.

E.g. If I am choosing 6 matches and betting on doubles combos, I will stake a bit more as I am more likely to get some doubles and a return on my investment. If I am betting on trebles or 4-folds, I will stake less as these are a bit less likely to win, plus the returns are higher if they do so I can get to the same profit by betting less.

I’ve been trialling a lot of bet types, mainly trying to find good bets in the AFL that look likely to return a profit over time. The soccer draw theory is also doing well, and I haven’t explored too many other sports yet as my sporting interest lies mainly with Aussie rules football and the English soccer. The tennis upset theory is also showing promise, as I like the odds you get backing the upset for a head to head match with 2 outcomes, even if the other player is heavily favoured to win.

Remember, upsets happen!

In the AFL I am taking a few approaches. I am using the Alternative Handicap option (Pick your own line), where I choose the team I think is going to win and then push the line to get a 2.10 return. I am looking for teams that I think will win by more than the bookies margin, and by pushing the line a few points passed that, I get the 2-1 I am looking for. The other approach is to find teams that you think will get closer than the line suggests, so they will lose by less than predicted. When you look at the odds for both teams once you get the 2-1 odds both ways, there is usually about an 8 or 9 point spread which I call the bookies margin, because if the result falls into that points spread, I can’t win no matter which team I backed.

E.g. Carlton v Brisbane Sunday 10^{th} May

Brisbane +21.5 – 2.05

Carlton -29.5 – 2.10

With these lines to get just over 2-1, Carlton has to win by 30 or more and Brisbane has to lose by 21 or less for me to collect, giving the bookies a 9 point spread where they will win.

The other bet I am doing quite well out of is the first score option. There are 4 outcomes for this bet in each match, home goal, home behind, away goal and away behind. What I noticed when I examined the odds for this option is that quite often there were returns of up to 4.50 for one of the options. I like this a lot; a 4.50 return for a bet with 4 outcomes! This is a good bet. I don’t care that that option has been deemed less likely to occur, probably through the data Bet365 has accumulated over the years, and I’m sure the AFL players in these matches aren’t trying to conform to the data either.

E.g. AFL round 6 (still in play)

I went through all the games and picked the first score option that paid the highest odds of 4-1 and over for each match. In some games all the odds are less than 4-1 so I leave them alone. This is what I backed with their odds:

St Kilda Behind – 4.00 (Win)

GWS Goal – 4.25 (Loss)

Gold Coast Goal – 4.50 (Win)

Melbourne Behind – 4.50 (Win)

Essendon Behind – 4.50 (Loss)

Brisbane Goal – 4.25 (yet to play)

West Coast Behind – 4.50 (yet to play)

So there are 7 legs, and I grouped them into doubles, giving me 21 combos. I staked .25c each combo so the bet cost me $5.25. The reason for doubles is that this is a hard bet to win when considering the possible outcomes. A double is 4×4 = 16 possible outcomes, where a treble is 4x4x4 = 64 outcomes; quite a big difference. Obviously the payout is greater for the trebles, but the other thing to consider is that there are 35 bet combos with the 7 legs, so using the min bet of .25 on Bet365, it would cost $8.75 for a less likely win. If I had more starting money I would consider this option as the potential payouts would be nice (4.5×4.5×4.5 = $91.13x.25 = $22.78), but there is a greater likelihood of getting 2 wins and no payout at all, which isn’t the risk/reward strategy I am following in this challenge.

So far I have won 3 out of 5 matches, a great result for the good bet theory with 2 games still to play. If I had of bet trebles, I would already have won $20.25 (4×4.5×4.5×0.25), and one more win out of the remaining 2 matches would give 4 more combos, and 2 wins 10 combos. But this is all speculation and we are in the real world here.

My wins so far have guaranteed me a min return of (4×4.5x.25) + (4×4.5x.25) + (4.5×4.5x.25) = $14.06, a profit of 267.8%.

The current cash out value is sitting at $19.53 which is very tempting. But one more win will increase the combos to 6 and a return of over $24, and 2 more wins will increase the combos to 10 with a max return of $47.28. So to take a $5 gain here at the expense of a much higher payout isn’t such a smart move.

The difference between this and the tennis scenario earlier is that the tennis results were relying on the underdog to get up and win against the heavily fancied favourite, whereas these results are still good bets, where I am getting more than 4-1 on the 4 possible outcomes.

Poker pro Chris Ferguson (aka Jesus) once said something along the lines that it is worse to fold a potentially winning hand than it is to stay in with a potentially losing hand. I like to apply this logic to the cash out option, where it is best to risk losing a small amount if I cash out early by seeing the bet through with the potential to win much more. Over time in this scenario, you will make more money by staying in than cashing out early, as the upcoming bets are good bets where your reward is greater than your risk.

The $20 Challenge betting strategy summary:

- Don’t make big bets, as you can always lose on any bet you make – there are no sure things.
- Aim for small wins and lots of them.
- Use the cash out option to minimise your losses or take a profit above your potential payout if the other bets are likely to lose.
- Make as many ‘good bets’ as possible and gamble on these.
- If doing large multi bets, aim for doubles or trebles as you are more likely to get a return instead of an all or nothing result.
- Don’t get greedy and don’t take any result for granted.
- Be patient and disciplined.
- Stay smart.

Beaner

Interesting read and good exploitation of the cash out feature. I was wondering which all bookmakers provide the ‘cash out’ feature in Australia. I know that Sportsbet.com does but I’m not so sure about others.