The Truth About Ante-Post Markets

Ante-Post Markets can be a punters best friend or their worst nightmare.

When to place your bet is nearly as important as what you’re backing. There are certain times when bookmaker margins are very high and inopportune. Just as there are a couple of prime times to place your bet.

We help you find the best windows in racing, as well as evaluate ante-post markets. Plus, we’ll discuss the sports betting landscape.


Ante-Post Racing Markets

Bookmakers allow early fixed price betting on feature horses races. It’s called futures or ante-post betting.

The bigger the race, the longer the lead time. For example, the 2018 Melbourne Cup market was framed by most bookmakers within an hour of the 2017 Melbourne Cup finishing. However, a moderate Group race may only have a fixed price market framed several days before the event.

Ante-post markets allow punters to get a wager on before the final field is confirmed. This early access to prices normally comes with an all-in betting clause which means the punter loses their stake if the horse doesn’t run. The idea here is that punters are given larger odds as compensation for the added risk.

However, as we’ll show, the corporate bookmaker odds are rarely generous and full of margin.

At approximately 11.30am on 12 February 2018, Sportsbet have 115 horses in their all-in market for the Australian Guineas. They’re betting one of the highest margins we’ve ever seen. 420%. Given this same race will likely be below 108% at Betfair, including commission, on race day, you wonder why people would take the all-in risks at potentially an inferior price.

Of course, there is the chance that a $101 selection makes the final field and has their odds cut in half, but with an extra 340% in the Sportsbet market, there’s nearly 100 horses that don’t make the race. Additionally, with that staggering percentage, many of the current favourites that do race, will be significantly longer odds on race day.


Final Field

When the field is finalised and barriers are assigned, corporate bookmakers reopen their markets. The margin will sit anywhere from 120-160%, depending on the race size and number of horses running.

Unfortunately, there is little incentive to bet at this stage either. The margins are still much higher than race day and corporate bookmakers are not legally obligated to accept fixed odds racing bets several days before the event.

So, a sophisticated punter who wants to have $1000 on a $3 horse, which they anticipate starts shorter on Saturday, may get their bet rejected. Additionally, the bookmaker’s risk profiling team might use this potentially sophisticated bet to conclude that the account holder is a smart punter who should be managed or permanently restricted.


Another Example

In the 2018 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes event, the winner was significantly larger on the Betfair Starting Price than during the week with Sportsbet, Ladbrokes and the TAB (prices taken at 11.30am on 13 February 2018).


At approximately 11.30am on 13 February 2018, Redkirk Warrior was $9 at all three bookmakers, while the event was all-in betting. So, if the British import withdrew from the event, punters would lose their stake cold. You would anticipate that the added risk came with generous odds, however, the Betfair Starting Price was $12.75 (including commission).

You could have got 41.6% bigger odds with less risk by taking the BSP instead of a midweek ante-post price.


Minimum Bet Laws

As you can see from the bookmaker margins and rules in our previous examples, these large companies hold the power in the punter relationship. They decide the odds, the bet sizes they’ll accept and the clients they accept wagers from.

Thankfully, largely due to the persistent efforts of Richard Irvine, the governing bodies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania now hold the bookmakers somewhat accountable.

At 9am on race day corporate bookmakers must bet every punter to win $2,000 at metropolitan venues in those states and $1,000 at provincial venues.

Naturally, this means that a swarm of professional punters place fixed odds bets at 9am. To protect themselves from pricing errors, the bookmakers ensure that the margins for each race are still high. Their prices remain competitive with each other because of the recreational punters also betting at this time, but there is still a substantial level of conservatism in place.

Despite the margins, this is still a great time for professional punters to place their bets. With nearly 15 corporate bookmakers in the market, all with largely the same odds, a punter can potentially get on to win $30,000 per selection.

The minimum bet laws helped change the industry and restore some balance to the bookmaker and punter relationship.


Mid-Morning

The next opportune time to bet is when the Betfair markets fill with liquidity. Provincial races later in the day may not be fully developed but Group races in Melbourne and Sydney will be fully liquid.

Returning to the Australian Guineas example. That market will be trading at 100% with a 6% fee applied to winning bets only. Compare that to the 420% ante-post market, convinced yet?

To give 420% context, that’s like buying a wholesale bottle of Mount Franklin for $2.50 and selling it for $10.50.


Next To Jump

Another great time to bet with corporate bookmakers is in the 5-10 minute period before a race starts. The corporate bookmakers margin is at its lowest, as they try to attract price sensitive customers who shop at multiple bookmakers. Corporates try to get their books down to as little as 112%, depending on the event.

The same market on Betfair is likely to be fully liquid at 100% with a State specific commission. It presents a great time for professional punters to place large bets at small margins.


The Sports Betting Landscape

The margins in sport are usually quite competitive and whilst they improve as the event approaches, there isn’t a universal best practice.

The big difference between racing and sport is that there is no minimum bet law on sporting events. Corporate bookmakers have the power to completely reject every bet a sophisticated client tries to place.


Conclusion

Future bets on racing are arguably the most inflated product on bookmaker websites. Whilst there are opportunities to take ‘overs’, the risks grossly outweigh the rewards.

If you like a horse, the best times to bet on racing with a corporate bookmaker is 9am race day or within 10 minutes of the scheduled starting time. It makes sense to take advantage of minimum bets laws and bet when the bookmaker margin is at its lowest. You want to be shopping at Boxing Day odds, not paying Christmas Eve prices.

The two other products you must consider are the Betfair Exchange, when the markets are liquid, and the Betfair Starting Price. They are 100% markets with a State specific commission applied to winning bets only.

Betting at the right time on the right product is imperative. Don’t lose when you win.


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