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Gambling is, by its very nature, a risk-ridden way to fill your time or even to try and make money. But, when done sensibly, it can also be a fun and exciting addition to watching sport.

But how do you make the most of your bet? What’s the best way to get around the bookies’ tricks that try and pull you through their doors?

It’s all about finding the best value for money. Whether that’s the right prices, the right markets, or even the best time to put your bet on, follow these tips from an ex-betting shop employee and see if you can make the most from your gambling experience.

  1. Know your sport inside out
    It’s not just about which football team has won their last six games but how well they have played offensively and defensively. Were they good at keeping possession, or were they lucky?

Which tennis player is having a spat with their coach? That golfer might have won two majors this season, but how much experience does he have on a links course?

These are the kinds of details that will inform your betting and will better prepare you for spotting those good-value markets.

  1. The favorite doesn’t always win
    It might seem obvious to point out, but it is difficult for any punter to ignore the price bookies have given.

A good example? When Rafael Nadal took on Fabio Fognini at the Barcelona Open in April, bookmakers had Nadal as the heavy favorite. He was as short as 1/10 with some.

On the surface, this would make sense. Nadal is the King of Clay and has won this very tournament a record-breaking eight times.

The bookmakers had overlooked that Fognini had beaten Nadal on clay only a few months earlier in Rio De Janeiro. Combine this with Fognini’s record of knocking out top seeds, and suddenly his 8/1 price is looking very attractive.

Fognini went on to beat Nadal in straight sets.

  1. Don’t just stick to one bookmaker – shop around
    There is a big emphasis on brand loyalty in the betting business. Because it’s such a competitive sector, companies will try and lure you into betting with them and only them.

Whether this is through various loyalty schemes or special in-shop offers, the intention is the same.

Your research should tell you which of these offers will most suit you for any given match. Be flexible and be prepared to put in the leg work.

  1. The fewer selections, the better
    This is something that, even though it seems like common sense, punters forget all the time. The fewer selections you include in your bet, the more chance you stand of winning.

Suppose you’re betting to make money think small, not big. One team or selection if you can stake enough. Three or four maximum. Once you find yourself putting that 20-fold accumulator on, you are on cloud cuckoo land.

  1. Avoid the temptation of odds-on prices
    If you do find yourself desperately wanting that long-shot bet on a Saturday afternoon, do not pad out your accumulator with odds-on selections. You’re decreasing your chance of winning for next to no extra cash. This is easy to do in tennis. It’s the opening week of a Grand Slam, and you see the top players are all drawn against relative unknowns. It would seem like a great idea to lump them all together in multiple to try and win some easy money. But this would be a mistake.

Tennis is notorious for offering terrible prices on match-betting, and so you could put the world’s elite in a ten-fold and still only manage to scrape returns at 3/1.

Is it worth £10 to only treble your money when any single loss at a price of 1/8 (for example) would result in your total bet going down? Probably not.

It would make more sense to do some research and find an up-and-coming player who has a favorable draw and back them at a better price.

  1. Consider the less obvious markets
    Again, once you’ve done enough research, you should know you’re sport well enough to find better value in the hundreds of other markets the bookies offer.

It is arguably a way for the bookies to provide you with more ways to lose, but you can find good prices if you look hard enough.

  1. Make sure you understand the markets
    While we’re on the subject of the less obvious markets, if you pick an obscure one, check the terms with the betting shop staff.

A common mistake is a half-time/full-time bet vs. to win both halves. If you put HT/FT bet on, your team simply has to be winning at half-time and then win the match.

If you back your team to win both halves, you are betting on them to win the first half and the second half separately. The team must score more goals than the opposition in both halves for you to win your bet.

It’s a subtle difference but frustrating for punters who come looking to collect winnings when their team was leading 2-1 at half-time and won the match 2-1. The second-half score must have been 0-0, and so the bet goes down.

  1. Don’t bet with your heart
    You might want your team to win. You want it so badly you even start to convince yourself it’s possible. Before you know it, you believe it so much that you’ve put your money on it.

And bookies love it because each week, they’ll rake it in from all the home fans willing their soon-to-be relegated team to beat the table leaders.

Similarly, avoid important events like derby games. The unpredictable element has been magnified because there’s more at stake, and players may elevate themselves for that extra degree of honor and pride.

If you must bet on these events, consider the other markets. They probably won’t beat the table leaders, but could they get a goal? The result and both teams to score could be a more sensible bet.

  1. Pick your moment
    It’s difficult to pinpoint the right time to place your bet because, unlike with horse racing, it’s not ‘best odds guaranteed’ on sports bets, but it’s usually best to do it on the day.

But most bookies will enhance prices or have special offers ahead of a popular event.

Some will do this for the whole day of the event itself. Others will boost a price for a set period at random points, meaning unless you spend the day in the shop, you’ll only come across these by chance.

If it’s a top-rated event, the bookies will almost certainly be promoting it with offers designed to persuade you to part with your cash.

It could mean money back as a free bet if the favorite scores first in a football fixture.

  1. It pays to follow less popular sports

As bookmakers try and offer more and more ways for us to hand over our cash, they are forever expanding the list of sports and markets they cover.

Undoubtedly, this means that they cover sports they might not know as much about as they would like.

A good example is MMA. The sport of mixed martial arts is on the rise, so we are getting increasingly more coverage and more information about competitors.

When world bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, stepped into the Octagon at UFC193, she was a heavy favorite, and her opponent Holly Holm was out as far as 9/1 early and still 6/1 when the fight got underway.

But why was Rousey at such a short price? Holm is a boxing world champion, while Rousey’s striking is somewhat lacking. Rousey’s strength was her judo, yet Holm had defended 100% of takedowns going into this fight.

It was never going to be as clear-cut as everyone thought, and any real look at the stats ahead of the event suggested that 6/1 was amazing value.

Not only did Holm go on to win the fight, but she KO’d the champ in just two rounds.

Everyone will have good days and bad days but follow these tips, and you should soon be able to spot the best value bets available and hopefully reap the rewards!

Just remember, only bet what you can afford to lose, never chase your losses and if the fun stops, stop!