Betting the US Open: Inside the Process
Editors Note: For major tournaments on the golf circuit, we’re fortunate to have Tom Peabody, Rufus’s brother, to give us a glimpse inside their process as they prepare for the event. This week is the US Open from The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Tom explores how he and Rufus plan to distribute their bets and balance their exposure. By the way, Tom is an accomplished singer/songwriter. You might want to let him provide the background music while you read this article.
It’s US Open week in the golf world. That means it will be a busy one for me and all the other golf bettors out there. The majors are the most exciting weeks for us as a betting operation. I thought it might be helpful to talk through how I’ll be putting together a portfolio of bets for the week. I’ll also touch on a few of the finer points of hold percentage and price shopping when betting the US Open. Hopefully talking through our process will be useful as you plan your attack for the week.
Balancing Risk By Balancing Variance
First off, the obvious: balancing risk is paramount. We need to make sure we’re not over-betting our bankroll, both in terms of volume and variance. That means our overall portfolio will probably be 75-80% lower variance bets, mostly matchups. This number might even be closer to 90%. At the end of the day, matchups are our bread and butter, as our edge will be realized over a shorter runway. They are two-way markets, so there are fewer ways the bet result can go. Matchups are also the easiest way to get down the kind of volume we’re looking to turn over. Limits will generally be higher than in other markets.
Betting Golf Tournament Groups
We will also bet a number of Tournament Groups. These bets are offered at places like DraftKings, FanDuel, MGM, and Caesars, and in many cases their groupings are unique. This means we’re not just line shopping for the best price in a tournament group, but comparing different group pairings. It results in a better chance we’ll find some good stuff. Another market to look for when betting the US Open are the derivative markets such as top player by region/country as well as tournament three and five balls. Each of these offers lower variance compared to Tournament Outrights.
Betting Golf Tournament Outrights
The remainder of our volume consists of higher variance bets, mostly Outrights and Top 5/10/20. Some books will also offer Top 30/40, which are a bit lower variance and a great option as well to increase exposure on guys we like. While we will have certain guys we’re high on relative to market, it’s important not to put together a lopsided portfolio. Relying entirely on one or two players to play well or poorly is entirely too risky. So even if we show edges on certain guys across the board, we’ll get a little picky and make sure we’re only taking the best price available and not getting overexposed. This is more art than science, and I always do additional research on guys if we feel we’re way off market to make sure we didn’t miss any injuries or anything else.
Synthetic Hold When Betting the US Open
This is pretty obvious, but the hold percentage for outright markets is much higher than for smaller markets like matchups. As a result, we’re looking for much higher edges to bet into outright and Top X markets than we are for matchups. I generally use a 15-20% edge threshold for outrights and Top 5/10. For matchups, I’m fine betting a 4-5% edge, though of course I’m looking for higher. This is a ballpark number, as it really depends on whether a bet is a longshot or a favorite. When we’re simulating tournaments, we have a higher degree of confidence in our numbers for guys near the top than we do for the longshots. We may lay off a guy at 750/1 even if we show a 15% edge, whereas we’ll probably hit a 15% edge at 12/1.
You should always be price shopping to create low synthetic holds and reduce the house vig. A synthetic hold is the hold percentage of multiple books in aggregate (the market, in essence). It’s the measure of hold percentage that really matters to us, since we’re not betting at one book. Price shopping is critical, and it’s important to have access to as many books as possible to lower your synthetic hold as much as you can. For example, if the market price on Thomas vs. McIlroy is -110/-110 and we can find a book offering Thomas -115/McIlroy -105, we’ve in essence reduced the spread from a 20 cent line to a 15 cent line, and lowered the house edge. The lower we get that edge the better, of course, as it gets us closer to a vig-free price.
I find that it’s really important to track one’s exposure in an intentional way. When betting the US Open, or any big tournament where our volume might be higher than normal, I’ll put together a Google Sheet just for that purpose. This way I’ll know exactly how much we have risked on a given golfer in each market, and can easily decide whether we want more exposure on someone or if we’re overexposed and need to try to offload some risk. Again, this is an art, and sometimes I’m fine letting it ride with more exposure than we’d normally like, but that often depends on the golfer.
For instance, despite all the talk of Jon Rahm sucking of late, he’s a backdoor Top 10 machine, and his variance is relatively low given how big these fields are. On the flip side, I’m usually not going to bet the farm on someone with a wider range of outcomes like Rory McIlroy (except that we sort of did in the Masters this year, oops!).
During the tournament, there’s a lot of value in Outright and Top X markets between rounds. My process generally involves combing through to find the best prices on those after the round is over. Then I look for Round Matchups and Three Balls. This is where it really helps if you’ve been keeping track of your exposure. You may want to load up more on a guy during the tournament or decide you’re okay with your pre-tournament position. It’s important to realize, too, that you’ll likely continue to see an edge on guys you liked pre-tournament, so it’s not always smart to just keep loading up.
While most weeks we’re grinding away betting the Barbasol Championship or the Scandinavian Mixed or some other event that 99% of the world doesn’t even know exists. Major weeks always feel different. The eyes of the world are on golf. That interest not only means more liquidity, it also means it’s just more fun. Rufus and I will be fortunate to be attending US Open in person this year. That should add to the excitement level for us. If you’re trying to improve your process when betting the US Open keep these things in mind:
- Cast a wide net when price shopping.
- Look to lower variance with two-way markets.
- Work synthetic hold in your favor.
- Track your bets so you don’t end up overexposed.
- Remember, small edges add up over time. Find the value where you can.