Predictive analytics in sports betting

Predictive analytics has revolutionized sports betting, allowing bookmakers to set accurate odds efficiently and punters to find value bets.

James Pacheco
James Pacheco

Last Updated: 2024-07-09

A. Tzamantanis

8 minutes read

clay tennis final

Bookmaking has evolved a lot over the past decades. Going back a hundred years or so and a bookmaker had no option but to use a calculator, notepads, a pen, their own maths, plus their own opinion and knowledge about a given sporting event such as a horse race, to come up with the odds that they offered their customers. 

But these days, all the best betting sites have far more advanced, complex systems in place that not only allow them to come up with accurate odds on a consistent basis but also in a far more time-efficient way based on predictive analytics. 
But savvy punters, always trying to stay ahead of the bookmakers in that quest for betting value that allows them to beat the odds, are using predictive analytics, too. 

What is predictive analytics as used by bookmakers?

It’s trying to predict what will happen in an event using historical data, intel and insights based on the performances of players and teams, in previous events. 
Whereas this practice has always been a part of odds compiling, it’s far more automated these days thanks to the use of technology that allows bookmakers to process all this data all at once rather than step-by-step. 
Let’s say a bookmaker is pricing up a tennis match between Player A and Player B. 
Thanks to a program, or algorithm if you prefer, the bookmaker can insert data into their predictive analytics tool, including: 
•    The two players’ respective rankings. 
•    Their head-to-head record overall. 
•    Their head-to-head record in matches on that particular surface.
•    Their respective hold of serve and break of serve percentage that season. 
•    The players’ performance in that particular tournament in the past. 

Extra considerations when setting odds

The bookmaker can add as much other data as they wish, including how a player’s recent form stacks up against their upcoming opponent or even how left-handed Player A tends to perform against other left-handers like Player B. 
Though the predictive analytics tool will do the vast majority of the work in terms of coming up with the accurate odds for the two players- minus the house edge inserted by the bookmaker, of course – the bookmaker can always tweak the odds if they feel the need to, at the last minute. 

Predictive analytics used by punters

Now that those odds have been set, it’s the turn of the punter to use their own predictive analytics. 
The predictive analytics will work out the odds as accurately as possible on the runners. The experienced punter will then know the name of the game is to bet on runners that are available at bigger odds than what their predictive analytics tell them they should be. 

A practical example of using predictive analytics

Let’s say it’s the semi-finals stage of Euro 2024. 

Bookmaker BobBet is laying the following odds with a house edge of 6.9%, which is normal for a bookmaker: 

Spain- Odds of 3.0 
Germany- Odds of 3.5
France- Odds of 4.0 
Portugal- Odds of 5.0 

Pete the Punter has his own predictive tools and taking into account dozens of factors, his tools have come up with thefollowing odds: 

Spain- Odds of 3.0 
Germany- Odds of 3.6
France- Odds of 4.5 
Portugal- Odds of 4.2

Based on Pete’s calculations, the odds on Spain and Germany are pretty much exactly what they should be, while the odds on France are a bit shorter than what Pete makes them, meaning that’s a poor value bet. However, Pete’s predictive analytics tool shows that the odds on Portugal at 5.0 are considerably bigger than what he thinks they should be (4.2), so Portugal are the good value bet. 

Final Thoughts on Predictive Analytics

This last point is crucial. Predictive analytics tools when set up and used properly allow you to identify betting value, which is your best route to long-term profit; they don’t guarantee you wins because sports and sports betting has elements of randomness to it. 
If you’re interested in using such tools, you can find these tools online and in mobile app stores; some are free, others require a one-off payment, others need a subscription to be paid on an ongoing basis. It’s up to you to decide whether any such fees are worth your while or if these tools work better for you in the first place than just watching a game and betting inplay based on what you’re seeing.

Alternatively, there are some pro tipsters out there who use these tools themselves and are happy to share their tips- either for free or for a subscription- doing all the hard work for you. If you’re thinking of using one of them, make sure you check their track record to make sure they’re successful punters before following their tips or paying for subscriptions. 

James Pacheco
James Pacheco Sports Betting Editor

James has been writing about cricket, football and tennis betting for the best part of 20 years for some of the biggest operators, websites and publications in the industry. Heroes and heroines include Paul Scholes, Chris DiMarco, Anastasia Myskina, Richard Gasquet, Nat-Sciver Brunt and Kumar Sangakarra.