Much is made of “value” in the betting press and in every issue of the Racing Post you’ll find the phrase “value bet”, so let’s try to pin down what it is. Rest assured that all professional punters only strike a bet when they are convinced they have got it.

Those who dismiss the value of “value” will proclaim that “the only value bet is a winning bet”. This certainly sounds clever and true, but it is, in effect, tautology and as a definition it is based only on hindsight. Anyone placing any bet assumes or hopes it will win, otherwise they wouldn’t be placing it. And every winning punter will think that he has got value because he’s gained something for nothing. The “only value bet is a winning bet” idea is useful as a correc­tive to those who believe that because a bet IS value (in their view) it MUST win, which is of course nonsense.

Quite simply, there are two ways of finding “value”. The first is for when you are thinking in terms of likely results as your opening gambit. Once you have decided which teams you want to back, for whatever reasons, you should then move to the closing gambit which is to bet with the bookie giving you the best odds if you win.

This is why internet punters often have accounts with a dozen or more bookmakers and make substantial use of or the Racing Post Pricewise guides. With singles, comparison is easy, but if you are doing accumula­tors, multiply the odds for ALL your selections with each bookie to see which one comes out highest, then bet with him. have the tools to help you do this.

“It doesn’t make any difference.” Yes it does. Let’s imagine you have found three teams priced at 10/11 with one bookie, all priced at 11/10 with another. The first pays you 6.96 times your stake, and the second one 9.26 times your stake - 33% MORE. If you find a DVD player for £67 in one store that another sells at £99.99, where do you buy it?

So simple shopping around is one way of getting value, just as it is when you buy TVs or frozen peas, and it’s why tipsters might say “9/2 Burnley from Corals is value when Ladbrokes go only 7/2.”

From “Peas” to three iimportant “P”s. When book­makers lay odds they are making assumptions about the Probability of something happening and they work in Percentages. A 7/2 away quote says it is a 22.2% chance, while 9/2 equals 18%. In fact when bookies work out that a result is a 9/2 chance, they offer only 7/2 because most add on at least 4% to each quote to guarantee themselves a PROFIT - the most important “P” of all.

The second way to find value then is to take bookies on at their own game and turn their Ps against them, if you see what I mean.

In our Fixture Lists, we offer a computer-generated view of probability. For me, value begins to emerge when there are the biggest contrasts between the probability of a result as defined by bookies’ odds and that as defined by our stats taking team news into account as well. Value thus lies in those odds where in our or your view a bookie’s got it wrong.

All our software manipulates vast quantities of data, just like that of the bookies, but the way it interprets the facts is ulti­mately based on opinions. So what constitutes “value” will always remain a matter of opinion. Nevertheless, to pursue it is the only professional approach to gambling with a bookmaker.

The “ordinary” punter will bet on what he thinks will happen or, worse, what he wants to happen. Whenever England play at any sport, people back them whoever the opponents and whatever the circumstances. The bookmakers always anticipate this flood of patriotic pounds and shorten the odds against England accordingly so in the eyes of more professional punters, there is seldom value to be found in backing England, at least with a UK-based bookie.

If England are quoted at 4/11, they may well win, but in the eyes of the professional there will be better value 4/11 shots (i.e. teams more likely to win at that price) elsewhere, maybe on another day. Herein the value of another “P”: patience.

This is the crucial difference. The thoughtless punter backs teams, individuals, horses, dogs or flies crawling up a window pane that he thinks will win. The value-seeker backs only those participants whose chance of a win are better, maybe much better, than those suggested by the best odds available.

If you thoughtlessly back nothing but odds-on favourites because, in your view, “they must win”, in the long term you will lose. The bookies can see you coming.

If, on the other hand, you back a series of 8/1 shots because you have correctly assessed that the real odds against them are only 7/1 or less, in the long term, you should win, because for each £8 you stake, you should be collecting £9. The key of course is to make sure that you ARE correct in your assessment! In the latest bookies’ accounts published just before this was written, the major players were all making a profit of around 10% of their betting turnover. If you can beat them at their own game and make a 10% profit on your betting turnover, you will clearly be doing better than the vast majority of punters.

This is why many pro. punters draw up their own set of odds for any events on which they are considering a gamble. They do this “blind” - i.e without looking at any odds quoted by bookies. Only when they are sure in their own minds that they have got the odds right do they look at the bookies’ lists. Where the bookies are quoting bigger prices that those they have worked out for them­selves, they feel in the presence of value.