First off, I’ll state that I’m not a high stakes gambler. My current betting bankroll is just over £1200 ($1700US) off initial deposits of £650, about 6 months ago. I didn’t really bet at all before I set up this site. However, since starting handicapping (and doing well at it), I have started to take betting on MMA seriously. I’d say slightly less than half the money I’ve made so far has been on in-play, so whilst you obviously can’t handicap that aspect of betting, I can try and explain what I try to do.
The most important thing is multi-tabbing. You can totally make money betting UFC in play if you just have one bookmaker but you’re ignoring a goldmine if you do. Several bookies offer in play betting on the UFC (Unibet, Ladbrokes, Boyles, Bet365 and probably plenty of others) and the lines offered are frequently massively different. Just on UFC 196, there were 3 fights where I managed to get guaranteed profits as different bookies had a different underdog at the same time.
I don’t view that as a particularly great way to make money, as profits are minimal. Also, you can get screwed over if one bookmaker suspends the market and you only get half the bet on in time. That happened to me with a 7 unit bet 🙂 So if you do wanna bet two bookies for a guaranteed profit, I’ld suggest doing so only in the first couple of rounds and even better, between rounds (when the odds don’t change so much). Most of the bookies also have a delay of about 8 seconds before your bet is placed and if the odds change, it might ask you to re-confirm, so make sure the bet has actually gone through!
Anyway, forget that sneaky business, the best way to make money in play (at least for me, so far), has been doing a bit of scouting beforehand to understand the basic fundamentals of a fighter’s game and then bet accordingly, preferably an underdog who is outperforming their odds. That might sound obvious but the key is to get on the bet before everyone else catches on… and to do that, a little knowledge goes a long way, especially on a card full of live dogs.
So going in to UFC 196 I had my eye on several guys as live dogs, should a particular set of circumstances play out, primarily Darren Elkins. Although I couldn’t handicap any of this, I did send out a mass mail to my followers on BetMMA with notes on all the fights I scouted and what to watch out for. Regarding Skelly vs Elkins I wrote.
Having scouted Chas Skelly before, I don’t particularly rate him and he has a bad gas tank…. bla bla bla a bit of fight analysis…. However, if you have access to in play betting and it’s a close R1, even if Elkins just about loses the round, I’d get on him in play. If you can get something like +450 after losing the first, it’s worth a shot because I think he should take over the later part of the fight. If he wins the first round and the price is anything acceptable, get on it.
The key point regarding this fight was the fighters’ respective gas tanks. That’s the number one value maker when two guys are evenly matched…. One guy goes balls to the wall early, ends up as a heavy in play favourite, you get on the opponent with a better gas tank at some tasty price like +300 and he takes over the fight to win a decision. In this instance the first round was really tight and with Chas being the favourite, money came in on him. At the end of round 1, Darren Elkins was available at +300, 4.0, 3/1 with Ladbrokes. He’d actually WON the first round with two of the judges. He did indeed take over the fight and won 30-26, 30-27, 29-27. Happy days.
On the other side of things, in play lets you avoid making value bets that turn out to be bad judgement calls. Guimaraes was another guy I scouted pretty heavily pre-event. I thought he was under-valued at +250 and the line should have been a little closer. However, it really wasn’t worth a pre-event bet, as I did think he’d probably end up losing. Instead, I wanted to see if he could land a takedown and keep Miranda on the mat. He couldn’t, so I didn’t bet him. In the end I actually bet “someone to win by TKO” near the end of R1 at +200, as Guimaraes started to really look gassed after a failed takedown attempt.
The only place I know which offers the specific props like that is Unibet. The odds there tend to be by far the most accurate to what’s going on and therefore trickiest to make money on straight fight bets, but there are obviously still plenty of opportunities.
With regards those props, I am also partial to some incremental returns from stuff that’s never going to happen in a million years, even if it’s only a 5-10% return. “Nobody wins by sub” or “Nobody wins in R1”, when there’s 1 min 30 left in the round and nothing’s happened between two pillow fisted, granite chinned fighters. It all adds up, if you can be bothered! Again though, it’s all about prior knowledge because you can’t afford to get any wrong at those sort of odds.
Going back to straight up fight betting, one other key thing to do is keep an eye on both the Twitter hashtag for the UFC event and at least one play by play writeup. I personally keep an eye on Sherdog. At the end of each round, have a look at who people think won the round on Twitter and the PBP and if the odds are the wrong way around, get on it. Taleb was an example of that at UFC 196. He was still a decent underdog at the end of R1 (something like +225) but most people on twitter and all 3 people on Sherdog thought Taleb won R1. Combine that with the fact that Taleb was looking better than evenr and Silva has questionable cardio and it was a bit of a no-brainer. The KO was just a really nice bonus.
A lot of that covers when to bet on the dogs but should you bother betting on favourites in play? Obviously it’s riskier as the odds will be shortening from an already pretty weak return, so in general don’t just bet anyone who you think is winning. People come back from adversity all the time. However, sometimes it’s just clear that once a certain incident happens, one guy’s pretty screwed, or at the very least, is in big, big trouble. Again, it comes down to a little bit of knowledge. Saggo vs Salas at UFC 196 is a perfect example. Before the fight I didn’t know whether Saggo would get the fight to the mat, where he has a massive advantage. Salas ended up taking the fight to the mat, got refersed straight away and that was the cue for a decent sized in play bet on Saggo at around 1.25 / -400.
Finally, the last remaining point is cashing out your bets. I cash out all the time on things I don’t think will come off. However, don’t think of it like “oh, I bet $5 and I can cash out at $2.50, at least I’m getting half my money back.” No you’re not. If you bet $5 at 2.00 / +100, you’re effectively betting $10 to win $2.50, if this is an either / or outcome, because you’re losing out on the potential winnings too. Would you bet 1.25 or -400 to take the other side of the bet? If the answer’s yes, cool, cash out.
Remember, you can’t win em all, however much you try. Every so often you’ll get screwed by a bad judges call (I bet Marion Reneau in play pretty big against Ashlee Evans-Smith). Also, don’t try and force it. Some events just aren’t great for in play, e.g. if all the favourites end up winning. I am of the opinion that in general, you’re better off not betting at all than betting a fight at worse odds than you think it should be, so when that’s the case, forget about betting and just enjoy the damned fight! Or if you can’t help yourself, just play those little 5-10% bankers 🙂
N.B. Time permitting, I send out a mailer about possible in play opportunities for each event to my followers on the main site. Visit my profile to follow me.