When I was pulling together the piece on level-stakes profit, something interesting came to light about the Draw selection in the 1×2 Match Odds market. In the 258 completed games in the Euro 2016 Qualifying campaign, there were 47 that finished with the scores level. If you had backed the Draw in each of those 258 games, then the meagre odds on offer would have resulted in a huge 56-unit level-stakes loss. Or put another way, if you had laid the draw on the Exchange market you would have had an outstanding winning campaign.
My first thought was that there must have been fewer matches than expected that ended up drawn. However as the visualisation below shows us, 18% of matches finishing level is perfectly normal for a Euro qualifying campaign. Scarily consistent in fact:
Fig 1: Comparison of matches drawn with the previous three European Championships
Just to reinforce the point, I checked the Euro-zone matches from the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. As you can see on this nice infographic, there were 59 draws from 268 matches equating to roughly 22%: slightly higher, but very much in the same ballpark.
So the only conclusion that I can reach is that – when viewed as a whole campaign – the odds on the Draw that were being laid (and backed) were significantly shorter than they should have been. The below visualisation reinforces the point:
Fig 2: Distribution of winning and losing bets placed on the Draw over the entire Euro 2016 qualifying campaign
There is a clear concentration of bets struck on the draw that won (shown as green marks) between the odds of 3.1 and 3.8. Further more, there is a clear bias to a higher number of bets being placed on the winners, indicating to me that the draw in that match was a popular outcome. The swathes of red show the 82% of games where backing the draw did not pay out. Given that 18% seems a predictable volume of winners; for the bets matched to have offered value, the odds would have needed to be more than a full point longer.
What does that mean for the finals?
That is difficult to say: there are far fewer games to be played, meaning any deviation could be significant. We can see from Figure 1 that the competitive nature of the finals can result in more draws than in qualifying. Although, over a very small sample of tournaments, that does appear to be trending downwards. In addition, there is a school of thought that the expansion from 24 teams to 32 in 2016 gives us the likelihood of a greater number of one-sided matches. We will see.
What I wouldn’t be rushing to do is back the draw in every game. If you can be selective and target just those games in that odds range then you may be lucky, but I don’t believe that it will turn out to be good value.
Perhaps what is most encouraging is for anyone planning to trade games using some variation of a Lay-The-Draw strategy. If the trends from qualifying are in any way played out in the finals, then you should have a good base to work from.