Most of us think that we can beat a Sportsbook over time, we wouldn’t gamble on sports otherwise – but how many of us actually do?
Naturally, Sportsbooks do not like winning punters but just as important a statement is that Sportsbooks do not like punters who show behaviour that they perceive to be unprofitable to them in the long term.
Most Sportsbooks make money and some make more money than others. The two big influencing factors when measuring the performance of a Sportsbook are
1) how much turnover are they taking
2) what margin are they trading to
It would be slightly unfair for a trading team to be expected to drive turnover. Traders usually believe the decisions they make or take significantly influence turnover but if this is the case then the business model is wrong. It is the marketing team’s responsibility to drive turnover and the trading team role to ensure they are making best use of it and delivering as healthy a margin as possible.
So how does the trading team go about limiting customers?
Firstly, there are no set rules or formal procedures in limiting customers, it is an art as much as a science and essentially traders will rely on gut feeling as whether to change limits on customer accounts. Some of the factors they will take into consideration when deciding on changing limits are:
The customer’s account details
When a punter signs up to a Sportsbook, they have to give a number of essential details away by law. Certain things can be analysed about a punters account and some of the considerations a trading team might analyse are the following:
Gender – Traders are much more wary about female accounts rather than male ones as the likelihood of genuine female punters is a lot less than a male one. A female account could be created after a male punter has had his account restricted and now opens an account under their ‘partners’ name.
Location – This is an important consideration as if the punter is not from a target country or where the Sportsbook is directly advertising then you might ask questions as to why they have opened an account with that particular Sportsbook.
Date of birth – Should you suddenly find an account where the punter is for example over 70 years old, you might consider the account to be suspicious.
Address – If the account has the same address as another punter on the database, again the Sportsbook might try to dig out information about the other accounts that use the same address.
IP Address – The Sportsbook might have a number of accounts linked to the same IP address. There might be nothing wrong here however it could be linked to an office where professional gambling is happening.
Email address – there could be something intriguing with the domain of the email address or or even just simply the email address that could lead to the account being used by a professional gambler.
The customer’s staking plan
If a punter generally bets £/€10 per bet and suddenly has a £/€1,000 bet, it would be considered completely out of their general range and would be deemed extremely suspicious. It could be the case that the punter has small recreational bets and then looks to profit from a professional bet.
Another angle to look at here is whether the customer places bets that are £/€49 or £/€99. Bets with these numbers are customers trying to go ‘under the radar’ so that the trading team do not see them on their ‘live tickers’ (where they view all bets coming in to the system).
The SP or closing odds of the bets placed
If the punter is always getting value when they bet, in other words the odds drop after the bet, or the Starting Price of the bet is always lower than the odds that the punter takes then this would be a cause for concern for the Sportsbook and the account would perhaps need looking into in more detail and limiting.
The frequency of bets placed
Professional gamblers are extremely selective in their betting. You won’t find them sitting at their computers having hundreds of bets a day. They will do a lot of research and only place bets where they find value. If a customer places bets infrequently then the trading team should be analysing these bets carefully.
Another consideration here is whether the punter is placing repeat bets on the same selection or event. Repeat bets can be deemed suspicious.
The time of the bet placed
A bet that is placed considerably before the start time of the event (except for antepost/outright betting) could cause questions to be asked by the trading team. Let’s say it is Tuesday morning and the punter wants to place a large staking bet on a relatively low league event happening the following Sunday then you could be quite assured that the odds will shorten before the start of the event.
Late bet / Change of starting time
The starting time of an event can change and occasionally Sportsbooks can miss the time or date change. Should a punter place a late bet then they will search for all customers who placed a late bet on the event. If it seems that the punter specifically targeted this event and doesn’t have any recreational/general business otherwise then the account would need limiting.
Palpable Error bets
A palpable error is when the Sportsbook makes a genuine typing error and the Sportsbook is within its rights to be able to cancel/void such a bet. Again, if it seems that the punter specifically targeted this event and doesn’t have any recreational/general business otherwise then the account would need limiting.
Is the customer an arber?
Traders despise punters who use betting arbitration techniques and are referred to as arbers. There is no way that a Sportsbook can survive long term if their database is full of punters doing this and traders are usually quick to limit punters showing clear signs of this behaviour.
A Specialist bettor in a particular sport.
If the bettor shows recreational behaviour however seems to be a specialist punter in a particular sport or league then perhaps they need limiting only in that Sport/League but their general limits kept for all other bets that they place.
Is the punter a VIP?
Ok, so we have seen a number of factors that would suggest traders lowering a customer’s betting limits but there is also the scope to find and isolate players who would warrant their limits being higher than the default. Punters who bet frequently at higher levels might deserve a call from the VIP team to have a chat and see whether they would like their limits raised – of course keeping in line with responsible gambling guidelines.
How are account limitations put into place?
Typically a Sportsbook will set default singles and multiple limits in for all Sports / Leagues / Market types. This is either set to a maximum bet stake (how much you are allowed to bet on a selection) or maximum liability (how much you can bet to potentially win on a selection).
As a simple example, let’s say that the maximum bet on an event is £/€1,000 and a new customer opens an account to place a bet.
Depending on the location of the customer, the punter will be set to a default factor of the maximum limit.
So, for example, the Sportsbook is a UK company, the default limits for UK customers would be set to 1.0. The trading team will have default limits for every country in the world where they accept business from. Saying this, if the county is not a ‘target’ area and no form of advertising or promotion is being done in that country then they will set a lower default limit for that country. If a punter decided to open an account from Finland, they might have a default limit set to 0.5, which means that a new customer from Finland can place a maximum bet of £/€500 on the event.
Typically, trading teams can analyse a punters general behaviour within the first 5 bets they place. If they are recreational bets then the trading team will be happy with the level of business they are bringing.
As soon as the punter shows behavioral pattern that flag up any of the trends above then the trading team will look into the account and adjust the betting factor for that punter.
For example, if the punter is a specialist in the particular Sport then their limits might be dropped to 0.1 for that sport (meaning they can only bet £/€100. If they are an arber, then the factor might be reduced to 0.01 (meaning they can only bet 1% £/€10 on the default factor).
However good or bad traders deem customers, they will very rarely (if ever) reduce a punters factor to 0 (not allow the punter a bet at all) as it is seen as showing a weakness in the Sportsbook and the Sportsbook can gain a bad reputation in the industry. That factor is only reserved for a fraudulent customer.
The ultimate goal of the trading team is to get the maximum they can from the database that they have so trading decisions are made all the time to be able to protect themselves from ‘sharp’ punters and get maximum benefit from recreational customers.
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