That is, how an intangible is measured and rated and thus turned into a price. At one time, fixed odds rarely changed, but in an era when large sums are staked at the click of a mouse, a market can alter very quickly, based on the liability facing the bookmaker.
Nevertheless, the bookies have to start somewhere and they employ their own ratings systems in order to help them price a market. At the most rudimentary level, we can say with a degree of certainty that these markets are derived from assessing goal supremacy - that is the relationship between goals scored and those conceded by a certain team - which is then weighted against recent form, a quick rule of thumb for which is the previous six games.
Goal supremacy ratings can be found on various websites which rank teams on a sliding scale. From there it is able to assign matches a rating, and the provision of bespoke rankings by those websites makes a potentially time consuming job much less onerous. In the past week, using these rankings, I have had returns from three bets out of a possible four with winners ranging from Rennes and Napoli to Inverness and QPR.
I intend to refine this process over the coming weeks but for now I'm using a very simplistic system, based on the ratings ascribed at the above websites and subtracting them from each other. A positive rating favours the home side, while a negative score favours the away side.
First up, I'm taking Aberdeen to beat St Mirren tomorrow afternoon. The -6 rating for the match makes Derek McInnes' side clear favourites, but while statistical info is relevant there can be no substitute for using a little local knowledge. I've had enough anecdotes fed to me to know that things are very wrong in the St Mirren dressing room. On the flip side, Aberdeen are flying, as evidenced by their impressive win over Falkirk in the League Cup in midweek. At present, they are trading at even money and that price is governed purely by their recent historical record in Paisley. The key word is historical and what we know is that this is neither the St Mirren of old nor the Aberdeen of bygone days. At evens, they are a massive price.
I'm adding Chesterfield and Leicester City to beat Mansfield and Barnsley respectively this afternoon. The ratings favour both home sides, but so too does the other statistical evidence. For example, Chesterfield and Mansfield have met seven times since 2000 with the former having won six (five by two goals or more). Chesterfield are a best price 11/13 while you can get Leicester, who have kept eight clean sheets in their last 13 games against Barnsley, at 8/15. That treble pays 4.66/1
The three teams who comprise this weekend's other bet naturally all have positive goal supremacy ratings. QPR (5/6) may have found goals hard to come by but they have added the wily Uruguayan Javier Chevanton in attack while concerns over a lack of goals is assuaged somewhat by six clean sheets in eight league matches. Leyton Orient (13/15) should beat Walsall, while Fleetwood (11/12) are picked to beat Exeter City. The multiple pays 5.57/1.
A positive start to the new campaign with a winning treble that paid £33.40 means that we have a solid base to build from.